Italian researchers said Tuesday they will dig up bones in a Florence convent to try to identify the remains of a Renaissance woman long believed to be the model for the "Mona Lisa." If successful, the research might help ascertain the identity of the woman depicted in Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece — a mystery that has puzzled scholars and art lovers for centuries and generated countless theories.
The project launched Tuesday aims to locate the remains of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a rich silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo. Tradition has long linked Gherardini to the painting, which is known in Italian as "La Gioconda" and in French as "La Joconde." Giorgio Vasari, a 16th century artist and biographer of Da Vinci, wrote that the artist painted a portrait of Del Giocondo's wife.
Gherardini was born in 1479. A few years ago, an amateur Italian historian said he had found a death certificate showing she died on July 15, 1542, with her final resting place being the Convent of St. Ursula in central Florence.
That's where the digging will begin later this month, said Silvano Vinceti, an art historian and the project leader.
'True Grit' items head to auction
John Wayne's eyepatch from his 1969 film "True Grit" and the Golden Globe award he won for playing drunken U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in the movie are to be sold at auction, Heritage Auctions said Tuesday.
Billed as the first single-owner auction from John Wayne's personal archive, the sale will take place in Los Angeles from Oct. 3-6. It also includes items such as the actor's cowboy boots and hats, driver's license, passport and American Express card, and movie scripts annotated with Wayne's handwriting.
Ethan Wayne, one of the actor's sons and president of the family-owned John Wayne Enterprises, said that after his father died in 1979, the family never looked through Wayne's personal items that were packed in storage until recently. Wayne said he thought his father would approve of the auction because fans were just as important to the Oscar- winning actor as his own family.
O.C. playhouse sets season
The Laguna Playhouse's 2011-12 season announced Monday will offer a salute to Tony Bennett, a one-man treatment of "It's a Wonderful Life" and the next installment in Maripat Donovan's "Late Nite Catechism" series. Also scheduled: a new concert-narrative that traces the development of American folk music from the 1920s to the mid-'60s, and the world premiere of a play that comedian Rita Rudner has adapted from her novel "Tickled Pink."
"I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett" (July 5-Aug. 23) offers three tenors and a four-piece band essaying 40-some standards Bennett has recorded; it's from David Grapes and Todd Olson, who created "My Way," the Frank Sinatra tribute seen at the Playhouse in 2009.
"This Wonderful Life" (Nov. 25-Dec. 24) is the title of Steve Murray's stage adaptation of Frank Capra's Christmas film classic starring solo performer James Learning. "Lonesome Traveler: A Journey Down the Rivers and Streams of American Folk" (Jan. 10-Feb. 5) is a touring show conceived and directed by James O'Neil and produced by Ventura's Rubicon Theatre, where it's scheduled to premiere April 16.
Harvard likes Poehler's style
Harvard has announced that comedian and actress Amy Poehler has been selected as this year's Senior Class Day speaker.
The school announced Tuesday that the Massachusetts native will address graduates and their families in Harvard Yard's Tercentenary Theatre on May 25. The annual ceremony is a chance for Harvard's senior class to socialize one last time before graduating.
Poehler, a Boston College graduate, is known for her work on "Saturday Night Live" and the NBC series "Parks and Recreation."
Actors unable to talk to panel
In 1992, Kevin Spacey and Alec Baldwin appeared together in the film version of David Mamet's play "Glengarry Glen Ross," about a group of down-market real-estate salesmen. On Tuesday, the actors were again pounding the pavement, this time teaming up to generate support for the arts on Capitol Hill.
The event was the 24th annual Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., organized by the nonprofit Americans for the Arts. Spacey and Baldwin were scheduled to appear before a special hearing of the House Appropriations subcommittee on funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. But their session was canceled at the last minute, apparently due to time constraints.
Among the proposed cuts in the federal budget is $40 million for an arts education program. Funding for the NEA, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services would fall about 13.3% under the proposed federal budget.
After the hearing was canceled, Spacey gave a version of his testimony to people who had gathered at Capitol Hill, according to the Associated Press.
A Paul Gauguin painting that was attacked by a visitor to the National Gallery of Art in Washington is back on exhibition. Conservators determined that "Two Tahitian Women" sustained no damage Friday.