Next in Mona Lisa Drama: Digging Up the Family Tomb

Lisa Gherardini's sons could provide a DNA match

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 8, 2013 5:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – Digging up the Mona Lisa was just the beginning, apparently. Now it's time to open her family's tomb for DNA samples of her two sons, NBC News reports. Last year, researchers exhumed several bodies in Florence, Italy, hoping one belonged to Lisa Gherardini—the likely model for Leonardo da Vinci's famous portrait. While scientists continue carbon-14 testing to try to date the bodies, they also want a DNA match to another member of the Gherardini family.

So the family tomb will be opened tomorrow for the first time in 300 years. At stake is ... what, exactly? Perhaps forensic tests of Gherardini's body could show whether congential palsy or bad teeth inspired her mysterious smile, as scientists have suggested. But at least one bioarchaeologist is scratching her head: "This will probably bring in some tourist dollars, but other than confirming that this is the Mona Lisa, I don't see any scholarly relevance to it. ... And these bones, as far as I can tell from the pictures, are in fairly poor condition."

A painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and representing Mona Lisa is seen during a preview presentation in a vault in Onex near Geneva, Wednesday, September 26, 2012.
A painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and representing Mona Lisa is seen during a preview presentation in a vault in Onex near Geneva, Wednesday, September 26, 2012.   (AP Photo / KEYSTONE/Laurent Gillieron)
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