10 Aug 2013

Tomb opened in search for Mona Lisa's identity

5:32 pm on 10 August 2013

Researchers have opened a centuries-old Florence tomb in a search for remains that could confirm the identity of the woman whose enigmatic smile Leonardo da Vinci immortalised in one of the world's most famous paintings.

The Mona Lisa draws millions of visitors to the Louvre in Paris each year. It is thought to have been painted between 1503 and 1506.

Theories abound about who the real Mona Lisa was.

A hole has been was cut in the stone church floor above the family crypt of Francesco del Giocondo, whose wife Lisa Gherardini is thought to have sat for da Vinci in the early 16th century, Reuters reports.

Writer and researcher Silvano Vincent, who heads Italy's National Committee for the Promotion of Historic and Cultural Heritage, plans to test DNA in the bones there and try to match it with those of three women buried at a convent nearby.

Historians say Gherardini spent her last years at the Saint Orsola convent.

Once a DNA match is made, Mr Vinceti says an image of Gherardini's face can be generated from the Saint Orsola skull and compared with the painting.

The researchers say carbon dating tests on three of eight skeletons exhumed from the convent are already under way.