Church archive helps identify Mona Lisa and her grave

An Italian historian claims to have definitively identified the grave of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa on the basis of information contained in a 16th century "Book of the Dead" newly discovered in a Florence church archive.

Discovery News reports that the archival documents show that the woman behind Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa painting may be buried near a now derelict building in the heart of Florence.

The exact location of Mona Lisa's burial site, the convent of Sant'Orsola, was just about 270 metres from the house of the artist's father, according to the historian, Giuseppe Pallanti.

"The mystery of Mona Lisa's identity is over. My study shows that she did exist indeed," Pallanti told Florence's daily La Nazione.

The author of two books on the Mona Lisa, Pallanti has identified her as Lisa Gherardini, the wife of the wealthy Florentine silk merchant, Francesco del Giocondo.

Pallanti's research supports a claim first made in 1550 by Giorgio Vasari. In his writing, Lives of the Artists, the 16th century painter and art historian named Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo as the subject of the portrait.

The newly discovered documents show that Leonardo's father - a local notary, Ser Piero da Vinci - and Lisa's family were neighbors, living about 3 metres away from each other in Via Ghibellina.

According to Pallanti's research, Lisa married Francesco del Giocondo in 1495, when she was 16 years old. Ser Francesco, who was 14 years her senior, had lost his first wife, Camilla Rucellai, the previous year.

The couple had five children: Piero, Andrea, Giocondo, Camilla and Marietta.

Pallanti found Ser Francesco's will and was able to reconstruct Lisa's last years. The will was signed by the notary Ser Piero, confirming that Leonardo's father and Lisa's husband knew each other.

"In the document, Francesco asked his younger daughter, Marietta, to take care of his "beloved wife," Lisa. Marietta, who had become a nun, brought her ill mother to the nearby convent of Sant'Orsola," Pallanti said.

Lisa died four years after her husband's death, at the age of 63, according to an archive known as a "Book of the Dead," found by Pallanti in a church archive.

"Lisa di Francesco Del Giocondo died on 15 July 1542 and was buried in Sant'Orsola," the document states.

Mona Lisa Grave Found, Claims Scholar (Discovery News, 19/1/07)
Mona Lisa mystery no more (Articulate, ABC, 23/1/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Mona Lisa (Wikipedia)

Researcher claims fresh evidence of Shroud of Turin's authenticity (CathNews, 31/8/06)
Tomb raiders hit jackpot with archbishop's teeth (CathNews, 10/10/06)

24 Jan 2007

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