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Mona Lisa was wife of Italian merchant

Two things have haunted Mona Lisa since Leonardo Da Vinci painted it 500 years ago: who is she? And why is she smiling? Researchers in Germany claim to have found the final proof of her identity. Read on...

world Updated: Jan 16, 2008 01:22 IST

Two things have haunted Mona Lisa since Leonardo Da Vinci painted it 500 years ago: who is she? And why is she smiling? Researchers in Germany claim to have found the final proof of her identity.

According to the researchers at Heidelberg University, scribbled notes in the margin of a book 500 years old are the evidence that establishes the identity of the woman with the strange half-smile.

“It’s is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Giocondo a Florentine merchant, whose portrait hangs in the Louvre museum in Paris,” the media reported on Tuesday, quoting lead researcher Viet Probst as saying.

The debate over the name of Mona Lisa has raged for centuries and is one of the art world’s greatest riddles. Some suggested Leonardo Da Vinci had amalgamated a variety of subjects to create his ideal woman, used his mother for a model, or even posed himself.<b1>

Many aficionados have long supposed La Gioconda, as she was also known, was the sitter, from comments made by Giorgio Vasari in 1550. But Vasari’s identification was made 50 years after Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa, and, the university said he was noted for elaborating the truth.

Now notes written by Agostino Vespucci, a friend of Leonardo, found in the university library, confirm the woman as Lisa del Giocondo. “All doubts about the identity of the Mona Lisa have been eliminated by this discovery,” Heidelberg University library said.

Even if we now know who she is, the Mona Lisa still clings to her final mystery — why is she smiling?