Italian scientists 'plan to crack Mona Lisa's identity' | world | Hindustan Times
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Italian scientists 'plan to crack Mona Lisa's identity'

For centuries, the identity of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece Mona Lisa has been debated, with rumours ranging from the Renaissance painter's mother to a disguised self-portrait.

world Updated: Jan 24, 2010 14:39 IST

For centuries, the identity of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece Mona Lisa has been debated, with rumours ranging from the Renaissance painter's mother to a disguised self-portrait.

Now, Italian scientists want to exhume the remains of da Vinci to reconstruct his face in a bid to solve the mystery behind his famous painting.

A team from National Committee for Cultural Heritage has, in fact, sought permission to open the tomb in which the da Vinci is believed to lie at Amboise castle in Loire valley where he died in 1519, aged 67.

"If we manage to find his skull, we could rebuild Leonardo's face and compare it with the Mona Lisa," leading British newspaper The Sunday Times quoted Giorgio Gruppioni, a member of the team, as saying.

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 describing them as "presumed" to be master's.

Team leader Silvano Vincenti said its first step would be to verify the remains of Leonardo's, by using carbon dating and comparing DNA samples from bones and teeth to those of his several male descendants buried in Bologna in 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 16th century," he was quoted as saying.