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Expert reveals true identity of Mona Lisa

The German expert, director of the Heidelberg University Library, says it is Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant named Francesco del Giocondo.

world Updated: Jan 12, 2008 00:07 IST

A German expert has confirmed the real identity of Mona Lisa after centuries of speculation about the woman in Leonardo da Vinci's famous portrait.

It is Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant named Francesco del Giocondo, said Viet Probst, director of the Heidelberg University Library.

Probst confirmed on Friday a German television report which said the discovery was made two-and-a-half years ago by the head of the university's handwriting department.

The expert discovered a reference to the Mona Lisa's identity in a hand-written reference on a document that belonged to the painting's early owner.

The owner was a contemporary of da Vinci and was in regular contact with him, according to the television programme.

There has been lots of speculation about who the sitter was for the portrait, which was painted in Florence between 1503-1506 and now hangs at the Louvre in Paris.

Most experts believed it was the wife of del Giocondo, hence its alternative title, La Gioconda, although this was never conclusively proved.