ROME — Italian researchers said yesterday they will dig up bones in a Florence convent to try to identify the remains of a Renaissance woman long believed to be the model for the Mona Lisa.
If successful, the research might help ascertain the identity of the woman depicted in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, a mystery that has puzzled scholars and art lovers for centuries.
The project launched yesterday aims to locate the remains of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a rich silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo.
Tradition has long linked Gherardini to the painting, which is known in Italian as “La Gioconda’’ and in French as “La Joconde.’’ Giorgio Vasari, a 16th-century biographer of the artist, wrote that da Vinci painted a portrait of del Giocondo’s wife.
Gherardini was born in 1479. A few years ago, an amateur Italian historian said he had found a death certificate showing she died on July 15, 1542, with her final resting place being the Convent of St. Ursula in central Florence.
That’s where the digging will begin later his month, said Silvano Vinceti, an art historian and the project leader.
Vinceti also cited documents showing that the Giocondo family made generous donations to the convent, and said Giocondo’s will arranged for his wife’s remains to be kept there.
The project falls within a current trend of employing CSI-like methods in art history, for example to find out about an artist’s technique, discover details hidden in a painting, or even learn about an artist’s life or death. The group led by Vinceti has already reconstructed the faces of some Italian artists on the basis of their skulls, and last year it said it had identified the bones of Caravaggio.