German experts crack the ID of ‘Mona Lisa’
Notes indicate that famed da Vinci portrait is of wealthy merchant’s wife
updated 2:35 p.m. CT, Mon., Jan. 14, 2008
BERLIN - German academics believe they have solved the centuries-old
mystery behind the identity of the "Mona Lisa" in Leonardo da Vinci's
Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant, Francesco
del Giocondo, has long been seen as the most likely model for the
But art historians have often wondered whether the smiling woman may
actually have been da Vinci's lover, his mother or the artist himself.
Now experts at the Heidelberg University library say dated notes
scribbled in the margins of a book by its owner in October 1503 confirm
once and for all that Lisa del Giocondo was indeed the model for one of
the most famous portraits in the world.
"All doubts about the identity of the Mona Lisa have been eliminated by
a discovery by Dr. Armin Schlechter," a manuscript expert, the library
said in a statement on Monday.
Until then, only "scant evidence" from 16th-century documents had been
available. "This left lots of room for interpretation and there were
many different identities put forward," the library said.
The notes were made by a Florentine city official Agostino Vespucci, an
acquaintance of the artist, in a collection of letters by the Roman
Jean-pierre Muller / AFP - Getty Images file
German experts say that scribbled notes
from 1503 confirm that da
"Mona Lisa" is the portrait of Lisa Gherardini,
of a wealthy Florentine merchant.
The comments compare Leonardo to the ancient Greek artist Apelles and
say he was working on three paintings at the time, one of them a
portrait of Lisa del Giocondo.
Art experts, who have already dated the painting to this time, say the
Heidelberg discovery is a breakthrough and the earliest mention linking
the merchant's wife to the portrait.
"There is no reason for any lingering doubts that this is another
woman," Leipzig University art historian Frank Zoellner told German
radio. "One could even say that books written about all this in the
past few years were unnecessary, had we known."
The woman was first linked to the painting in around 1550 by Italian
official Giorgio Vasari, the library said, but added there had been
doubts about Vasari's reliability and had made the comments five
decades after the portrait had been painted.
The Heidelberg notes were actually discovered over two years ago in the library by Schlechter, a spokeswoman said.
Although the findings had been printed in the library's public
catalogue they had not been widely publicized and had received little
attention until a German broadcaster decided to do some recording at
the library, she said.
The painting, which hangs in the Louvre in Paris, is also known as "La
Gioconda" meaning the happy or joyful woman in Italian, a title which
also suggests the woman's married name.
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