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Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2007, 11:43 GMT
'New evidence' on Mona Lisa model
By Mark Duff
BBC News, Milan

Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa's smile has intrigued art lovers for centuries
An Italian art historian says he believes he has found the last resting place of the woman behind Leonardo da Vinci's famous Mona Lisa painting.

Most experts agree that it is Lisa Gherardini - the wife of a wealthy merchant in Florence.

But Giuseppe Pallanti now says records from the time show that she died aged 63 in July 1542 and was buried in a now dilapidated convent in Florence.

The historian says she had seen out the last years of her life there.

After poring through thousands of official records from the time, Mr Pallanti believes Lisa Gherardini was widowed and ill when she died.

He says the documents also show that she was still a famous figure in Florentine society: the whole parish turned out for her funeral.

Even in death, it would seem, the woman who helped give the world the Mona Lisa was recognised as having something very special about her.

For centuries art lovers have pondered the mystery of Mona Lisa's smile.

They have been arguing whether she was smiling at her lover; was smug at the prospect of becoming - or having just become - a mother; or was enjoying a very private joke that would be wasted on the rest of us.

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