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'Mona Lisa' skeleton and kin to get DNA tested

By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com

The tomb containing the bones of the woman believed to be the model for Leonardo da Vinci's famous "Mona Lisa" painting will be opened for the first time for DNA testing.

Researchers will open the Florentine tomb in the Martyrs' Crypt, behind the main altar of the Basilica della Santissima Annuziata, to determine if it contains the bones relatives of Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo.

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Gherardini, the merchants wife who lived across the street from da Vinci, is said to be the original owner of that famously enigmatic smile. Excavators found several skeletons at an Ursuline convent where Lisa Gherardini is supposedly buried, and need to match the DNA of the family buried in the Martyrs' Crypt to the bones at the convent.

"Right now we are carrying out carbon-14 tests on three of the eight skeletons found in St. Ursula, which could be the age Lisa Gherardini was when she died," said Silvano Vinceti, the head of Italy's national committee for cultural heritage. "The carbon-14 test will tell us which of the three dates back to the 1500s. Only then will we know which skeleton to do the final DNA test on."

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Lisa's two sons and their father, Francesco Del Giocondo, are buried in the Martyrs' Crypt.

Historians believe the famous portrait was commissioned to celebrate the pregnancy or birth of Lisa and Francesco's second son in 1502, or the purchase of a house in 1503. She became a nun after Francesco's death and died in 1542 at age 63 and buried near the convent's alter.

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