Woman's remains exhumed for skull reconstruction to determine if she was Mona Lisa model
In the frigid bowels of a derelict building in central Florence, Italy, that covers the ruins of an old Franciscan convent, a group of researchers is trying to nail down some of the elusive details of the woman featured in the iconic painting. It is here that old city records say the woman who posed for the painting, Lisa Gherardini, the second wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, was buried.
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Silvano Vinceti is leading a team to exhume and identify Gherardini's remains.
Those remains are wrapped in aluminum foil and packed into large Tupperware containers stacked in an old filing cabinet. Vinceti and his colleagues took them out, one by one, and eventually found one packet with what appeared to be skull fragments."This is probably it," Vinceti tells me excitedly, his eyebrows arching. The remains, he says, will be sent for DNA testing to several universities in Italy and abroad, where they will be checked against the DNA of two confirmed relatives of Gherardini buried elsewhere.I ask Vinceti: Why go to all this trouble to find out if this was the woman who posed for da Vinci more than 500 years ago?
"Once we identify the remains," he says, gesticulating dramatically, "we can reconstruct the face, with a margin of error of 2 to 8 percent. By doing this, we will finally be able to answer the question the art historians can't: Who was the model for Leonardo?"