Real Mona Lisa's Identity Confirmed, University Says

David Rising in Berlin, Germany
Associated Press
January 15, 2008

A researcher has uncovered evidence that apparently confirms the identity of the woman behind the Mona Lisa's iconic smile, Germany's University of Heidelberg says.

She is Lisa del Giocondo, wife of Florentine businessman Francesco del Giocondo, according to book-margin notes written by a friend of Leonardo da Vinci while the artist worked on the masterpiece, the school said in a statement Monday.

The discovery by a Heidelberg University library manuscript expert appears to confirm what has long been suspected.

The Mona Lisa is known as "La Gioconda" in Italian.

False Leads

Del Giocondo was named as the likeness in the painting as early as 1550 by Italian writer Giorgio Vasari, who also dated the work at between 1503 and 1506, the university said.

But because Vasari relied on anecdotal evidence, there were always doubts about the identification, and Leonardo is not known to have made any notes about the model's identity himself.

Compounding the mystery, vague references in 1517, 1525, and 1540 point to other identifications.

"One possibility discussed is the presentation of a fictitious likeness of a woman; Leonardo's female ideal," the school said.

But the find by Heidelberg library expert Armin Schlechter settles the matter, according to the university.

One Source

In a copy of the works of Roman philosopher Cicero, a Florentine official and friend of Leonardo's wrote in the margins that da Vinci was working on a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo. The friend, Agostino Vespucci, dated his notes October 1503, also helping to pin down the exact time Leonardo was working on the painting.

"All doubts as to the identity of the Mona Lisa are eliminated (by) one source," the university said.

The discovery was actually made in 2005, but was not widely known until a German radio station last week aired it in a report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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