This is kind of creepy.
"Is the Mona Lisa a Self-Portrait?"
January 25th, 2010
January 25th, 2010
“If we manage to find his skull, we could rebuild Leonardo’s face and compare it with the Mona Lisa,” said anthropologist Giorgio Gruppioni, who is part of a team from Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage, a leading association of scientists and art historians, which is undertaking the investigation.
Da Vinci, who died in 1519 at age 67, was originally buried in the Chateau Amboise in France's Loire Valley, which was destroyed after the French Revolution in 1789. It is believed that his remains were reburied in the castle’s smaller chapel of Saint-Hubert in 1874. An inscription above the tomb says they are “presumed” to be those of da Vinci.
Traditionally, the individual in the painting is thought to have been Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant. However, speculation surrounds the true identity of the individual, with several other women (including da Vinci’s mother) being candidates.
More recently, artist Lillian Schwartz has used computer programs to identify similarities between the features of the Mona Lisa and those of one of da Vinci’s true self-portraits. Some scholars suggest that da Vinci’s presumed homosexuality and love of riddles inspired him to paint himself as a woman.
If granted permission, the Italian researchers plan to verify that the remains in Saint-Hubert are da Vinci’s by using carbon dating and comparing DNA samples from the bones and teeth with those of several male descendents buried in Bologna, Italy.
Bone tests could also reveal how da Vinci died, which is currently unknown. Diseases such as tuberculosis and syphilis as well as lead poisoning would appear in the bones. The researchers noted that syphilis was seen as a form of plague at the time, killing about 20 million people in the first quarter of the 16th century.
The Italian researchers are currently seeking permission from French cultural officials and the owners of the chateau, who have agreed in principle. Despite criticism from some scholars who believe that the remains should be left alone, the scientists hope to receive formal permission this summer.
"Leonardo da Vinci's bones to be dug up by Italian scientists"
January 24, 2010
The Sunday Times
January 24, 2010
The Sunday Times
Scientists seeking permission to exhume the remains of Leonardo da Vinci plan to reconstruct his face to discover whether his masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, is a disguised self-portrait.
A team from Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage, a leading association of scientists and art historians, has asked to open the tomb in which the Renaissance painter and polymath is believed to lie at Amboise castle, in the Loire valley, where he died in 1519, aged 67.
Giorgio Gruppioni, an anthropologist, said the project could throw new light on Leonardo’s most famous work. “If we manage to find his skull, we could rebuild Leonardo’s face and compare it with the Mona Lisa,” he said.
The identity of the Mona Lisa has been debated for centuries, with speculation ranging from Leonardo’s mother to Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine merchant.
Some scholars have suggested that Leonardo’s presumed homosexuality and love of riddles led him to paint himself as a woman.
Recreating Leonardo’s face could test the theory of Lillian Schwartz, an American expert who drew on computer studies to highlight apparent similarities between the features of the Mona Lisa and those of a self-portrait by the artist.
Talks about the exhumation with French cultural officials and the owners of the chateau have resulted in an agreement in principle, according to the Italian team, and the project could receive formal permission this summer.
The church in which Leonardo was buried was destroyed after the French revolution of 1789. The remains were reburied in the castle’s smaller chapel of Saint-Hubert in 1874, beneath an inscription that describes them as “presumed” to be the master’s.
Silvano Vincenti, head of the Italian team, said its first step would be to verify that the remains are Leonardo’s. They will use carbon dating and compare DNA samples from the bones and teeth to those of several male descendants buried in Bologna, central Italy.
“There aren’t any clues in the history books, but we’ll be able to find out if Leonardo died of a disease such as syphilis or tuberculosis, because that shows up in the bones. Syphilis was seen as a form of plague at the time: some 20m people died of it in the first quarter of the 16th century,” Vincenti said.
Bone tests could also establish whether Leonardo suffered from lead poisoning, as did many fellow-painters of the time, because they were exposed to toxic pigments.
However, the plans have provoked criticism from Leonardo scholars who regard the notion of a self-portrait as a myth and who believe his remains should be left alone.
Nicholas Turner, a former curator of drawings at the Getty Museum, said: “It sounds a bit fanciful, slightly mad, as if the Leonardo bug has taken hold too firmly in the minds of these people. We know that Mona Lisa was a specific person, she existed and it’s her portrait. If Leonardo heard about all this, he’d have a good chuckle.”
Mona Lisa's smile