Experts have opened a tomb to extract DNA they hope will identify the remains of Leonardo da Vinci’s model for Mona Lisa.
Geologist Antonio Moretti told reporters the remains in the Santissima Annunziata basilica had an inscribed stone indicating they belonged to the family of Lisa Gherardini’s husband and sons.
Many believe she posed for Leonardo.
Researchers will run tests to see if DNA from the bones can be linked to female bones previously found in Florence’s Sant Orsola convent and believed to be those of Gherardini.
If the tests are positive, experts will reconstruct the woman’s skull and compare it to the portrait.
Silvano Vinceti, head of Italy’s cultural heritage committee, said the mystery of Mona Lisa’s identity is about to be revealed.
“Thanks to this reconstruction we will be able to find the answer to a question that has been intriguing historians all over the world,” he said.
Lisa Gherardini was the wife of a rich silk merchant called Francesco del Giocondo – indeed Italians refer to the Mona Lisa as the “Gioconda”.
According to art historian Giorgio Vasari, he commissioned Leonardo to paint a portrait of his wife.
Leonardo took about 15 years to complete what was to become the most famous painting in the world.
When her husband died, Gherardini retired to the Sant Orsola convent where she died aged 63, on the 5 July 1542.