Mona Lisa's final resting place is a rubbish dump
Published 12/10/2010 | 05:00
The remains of the woman who was the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa were dug up 30 years ago and now lie in a municipal rubbish dump, an Italian expert has claimed.
Lisa Gherardini died in Florence in 1542 and was buried in the grounds of Sant'Orsola convent. Over the centuries, the Franciscan convent was used as a tobacco factory and a university teaching facility until in the 1980s work began to convert it into a barracks for Italy's tax police, the Guardia di Finanza.
The developers had no idea it was the final resting place of Leonardo's model -- that was only discovered in 2007 -- and during work to build an underground car park, the convent's foundations were excavated, along with the graves and tombs.
The rubble was dumped in a municipal landfill site on the outskirts of Florence.
Giuseppe Pallanti, an expert on Leonardo, who has spent 30 years studying the archives trying to establish Lisa Gherardini's final resting place, is convinced her remains are interred in the dump, now a 100ft high grassy mound.
"The tombs have all been lost," he said. "Sadly, when the works were carried out in the 1980s no thought was given to the historical importance of the building and its artefacts. They just wanted to build new barracks and the material they excavated was disposed of."
Mr Pallanti, the author of 'Mona Lisa Revealed: The True Identity of Leonardo's Model', added: "It is sad that the tomb of Lisa Gherardini has been destroyed without anyone realising it at the time."
Ms Gherardini is believed to have been born in Florence in 1479. At the age of 16 she became the second wife of a wealthy silk merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, with whom she had five children.
She moved into the convent after his death, where she is believed to have died at the age of 63 in 1542. The portrait that came to be known as the Mona Lisa, which hangs in the Louvre, was completed by Da Vinci in 1506 when she was about 24. (© Daily Telegraph, London)