Florence

Committee asks that Mona Lisa visit Florence

Request comes as archaeologists search for portrait model

Committee asks that Mona Lisa visit Florence

Florence, August 9 - A petition asking that Leonardo da Vinci's famous Mona Lisa be returned to Italy for a visit has been submitted to French cultural authorities, supporters of the move said Friday. As many as 150,000 people signed the petition, asking that the small painting be loaned from its home in Paris' Louvre museum, its proponents say. The request from the Italian committee for the development of cultural heritage says that the painting, which is believed to have been completed in Florence, should be returned to Italy if only for a short while. The committee has petitioned before, unsuccessfully, for a visit from the iconic painting to mark the 100th anniversary of the recovery of the painting in Florence in 1913, after it had been stolen from the Louvre in 1911. The latest request came the same day that archaeologists in Florence exhumed skeletons from three men which could help them to pinpoint the identity of the woman who first sat for the famous portrait. They opened the family tomb of Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo in the so-called Martyrs' Crypt behind the main altar of Santissima Annunziata church in Florence to find the remains of her husband Francesco del Giocondo, and his sons Piero and Bartolomeo. Only Piero was her son, while Bartolomeo was from Francesco's first marriage. Scientists want to compare her son's DNA to that of a skeleton found in the basement of a former Ursuline convent in July 2012 to see if that skeleton could be the Mona Lisa model. The results of the latest testing are expected in September. The long-running hunt for the iconic da Vinci model culminated when researchers in Florence uncovered the base of a 15th-century altar in St Ursula, which they firmly believed led to the tomb containing the remains of Mona Lisa. Leonardo sleuth Giuseppe Pallanti published a book in 2007 arguing the former convent "must be" the last resting place of La Gioconda, as the Italians call the Mona Lisa because of the surname of her husband, Del Giocondo. He said his research has wiped away all doubt about the identity of La Gioconda, who is believed to have joined the Ursuline nuns in old age. "It was her, Lisa, the wife of the merchant Francesco Del Giocondo - and she lived right opposite Leonardo in Via Ghibellina," in Florence, Pallanti said. Most modern scholars have now agreed with Pallanti that the Mona Lisa sitter was Lisa Del Giocondo, who according to the Italian researcher became a nun after her husband's death and died in the convent on July 15, 1542, aged 63. So now the proof lies in the DNA if the bones found in the convent are those of the wife and model turned nun. Gherardini and Del Giocondo were married in 1495 when the bride was 16 and the groom 35. It has frequently been suggested that Del Giocondo commissioned Leonardo to paint his Mona Lisa (mona is the standard Italian contraction for madonna, or "my lady,") to mark his wife's pregnancy or the recent birth of their second child in December 1502.

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