FLORENCE, Italy, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- An Italian art expert says evidence suggests Leonardo da Vinci once painted a nude version of his famous Mona Lisa.
Renzo Manetti, a Florentine art expert and da Vinci specialist, said he believes the artist created "heavenly" and "vulgar" versions of the same portrait, a practice common among other Renaissance artists inspired by Neoplatonic philosophy, ANSA reported Monday.
"Even though the (nude) painting has been lost, there are at least 10 reproductions or comparable works, painted by pupils or disciples, which enable us to reconstruct the original," Manetti wrote in his new book, "The Mona Lisa's Veil."
Manetti said a work by da Vinci's student Andrea Salai, Monna Vanna, is especially compelling as a piece inspired by the nude Mona Lisa.
The researcher said da Vinci's lost painting is believed to be in the same pose as the Mona Lisa, but on a balcony with one breast exposed.
Man, 96, holds pre-emptive wake
BEAVERTON, Ore., Nov. 16 (UPI) -- A 96-year-old photographer in Oregon said he decided to plan and hold his own wake prior to his death so he could attend the event.
Hugh Ackroyd, 96, said he held the wake for family and friends Sunday at the Beaverton home of friend Edda Sigurdar, The Oregonian reported Monday.
"Well, why not?" Ackroyd said of leading his own wake. "Why bother when (I'm) dead?"
Ackroyd, a father of two whose wife died about 12 years ago, sat in his padded wheelchair and greeted his friends as they arrived for the event. He said one of his favorite items at the wake was a wreath bearing a ribbon reading: "Eventually, Hugh, rest in peace."
"It's quite magnificent," Ackroyd said of his wake.
Man drives 840 miles for Chicago class
CHICAGO, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- An Oklahoma man said he commutes 1,680 miles a week to take an improv comedy class at the famous Chicago school that trained his hero.
Thomas Crane, 24, of Blanchard, Okla., said he drives 840 miles each Thursday to attend a Friday class at iO Chicago and leaves immediately after class for the 840 mile drive home -- a commute he said takes about 15 hours in each direction, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.
Crane said he decided to take a class at iO after learning from a TV special that his favorite comedian, Chris Farley, trained at the school.
"After high school I started thinking of being an actor. But my grandmother, she didn't believe in that. I wanted to prove her wrong. I hate that she died before she could see me achieve anything. I was disappointed. Because you want family to succeed with you," Crane said.
He said he spends about $150 on gas each week and shells out more cash for hotel rooms.
"I really am a sane person," he said. "Still, this is not the most intelligent thing you could probably do. You
think 'Oh, I can slam 1,700 miles a week!' Then on the drive back, you start talking to yourself, and maybe, you know, you even start making videotapes of yourself talking to yourself, because you have got to do something and talk to someone, you know?"
Family story leads to Lincoln watch find
WAUKEGAN, Ill., Nov. 16 (UPI) -- An Illinois attorney said a family legend led to the discovery of the phrase "Thank God we have a government" inside of President Abraham Lincoln's watch.
Douglas Stiles of Waukegan said the discovery was the result of his investigation into his family's claims that his great-grandfather, Washington watchmaker Jonathan Dillon, had inscribed a message about the start of the Civil War inside the president's watch in 1861, the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald reported Monday.
Stiles said the claims were bolstered by a 1906 article in The New York Times.
"A reporter was supposed to be interviewing my great-grandfather about being on jury duty at the age of 86, but he decided to tell the watch story instead," he said.
Stiles contacted Harry Rubenstein, curator of the Lincoln collection at the Smithsonian in Washington, and the watch in question was identified as an English lever watch in the collection.
A Baltimore watchmaker carefully took the watch apart so the inscription could be read.
"Jonathan Dillon April 13, 1861 Fort Sumpter was attacked by the rebels on the above date J Dillon April 13 1861 Washington thank God we have a government Jonth Dillon," the inside of the watch reads.
"It was just an incredible moment, something I will remember forever," Stiles said. "Just knowing that my great-grandfather had written something Abraham Lincoln carried around for years and never knew that it was there."