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'Mona Lisa's' identity could be revealed through DNA testing

'Mona Lisa's' identity could be revealed through DNA testing
"Mona Lisa" on display at the Louvre in Paris. (Scan by Mark Harden / Louvre, Paris)

The mystery of "Mona Lisa's" real-life muse, which has spawned centuries of speculation, could be solved through DNA testing.

Researchers on Friday opened a family tomb in Florence, Italy, to help confirm the identity of Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo, Leonardo da Vinci's neighbor who is believed to be the woman behind the enigmatic smile.

Archaeologists cut a hole in the family crypt where Lisa Gherardini's husband and sons are buried.

Researchers will use her sons' DNA to try to try to find a match to three skeletons that were unearthed last year at a nearby convent, one of which could be the remains of Gherardini.

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"When we find a match between mother and child -- then we will have found the Mona Lisa,"  Silvano Vinceti, who heads Italy's National Committee for the Promotion of Historic and Cultural Heritage, told Reuters.

If a match is made, which could take a year, experts plan to reconstruct Lisa Gherardini's face to compare it to Da Vinci's 16th century masterpiece.

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Many art experts believe Gherardini's silk merchant husband commissioned Da Vinci to paint his wife's portait in the early 1500s to mark her pregnancy or the birth of their child.

After her husband's death, experts believe Gherardini became a nun at Saint Ursula, and keeping with customs, was buried near the altar.

On display at the Louvre in Paris, the "Mona Lisa" draws millions of visitors each year who come to ponder the source of her expression.

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