No wonder she has such a mysterious smile: the lady was a scamp. Mona Lisa isn't the portrait of a local merchant's wife, but was inspired instead by a beautiful boy apprentice who later became Leonardo da Vinci's lover, argues an art expert. Silvano Vinceti, the head of an Italian research team, believes the beloved painting was based on Gian Giacomo Caprotti. Several of da Vinci's works, including two paintings of St. John the Baptist and Angel Incarnate, feature Caprotti's effeminate face and curly hair, says Vinceti. They bear striking similarities to certain aspects of Mona Lisa's face, he argues.
Caprotti became da Vinci's apprentice at the age of 10 and stayed with the artist for 20 years. He acquired the nickname of Salai, or "little devil," and was the subject of erotic sketches by da Vinci. "Salai was very handsome and probably Leonardo’s lover,” said Vinceti. "Salai was a favorite model for Leonardo. He certainly inserted characteristics of Salai in the Mona Lisa.” Other critics call the theory "groundless," though some have noted the androgynous quality of the Mona Lisa, with some speculating that it was actually a disguised self-portrait, notes the Telegraph. (Click for more Mona Lisa mysteries.)