The 500-year mystery of who served as the model for Leonardo da Vinci's enigmatic Mona Lisa has finally been solved!
Today Italian art historian Silvano Vinceti said he has used high resolution photography to find tiny letters painted in the Mona Lisa's eyes that have finally lead to the model's real identity. So is she?
She is actually a he! And he is Leonardo’s young lover – who also served as his assistant for a number of years.
"Invisible to the naked eye and painted in black on green-brown are the letters LV in her right pupil, obviously Leonardo's initials, but it is what is in her left pupil that is far more interesting," Vinceti, the chairman of the Italian national committee for cultural heritage, said.
The initials he found in her right pupil are those of da Vinci's long-term young male apprentice, who was called Salai (real name, Gian Giacomo Caprotti). Salai also owned the prized portrait when he died in 1525.
For any doubters, Vicenti points out Da Vinci's love of cryptic communication.
"Leonardo was keen on symbols and codes to get messages across, and he wanted us to know the identity of the model using the eyes, which he believed were the door to the soul and a means for communication," he said.
The work is currently owned by the Government of France and is on display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris under the title Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo.
The image is so widely recognized, caricatured, and sought out by visitors to the Louvre that it is considered the most famous painting in the world.