The real Mona Lisa is about to be discovered

We might be on the verge of the biggest archaeological discovery in art history. A tomb in Florence could hold the remains of the model who sat for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa some 500 years ago.

There's almost unanimous agreement in the art history community that Leonardo's model was Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo. She was the wife of a small-time Florentine cloth merchant and local politician who was, rather more importantly, Leonardo's neighbor. She is thought to have sat for the painting in 1502, around when she was pregnant with her second child. However, it wouldn't be until 1519 that anyone actually saw the finished painting, as Leonardo supposedly jealously guarded the painting until his death, taking it with him everywhere and not letting anyone else get their hands on it.

Now a team led by Silvano Vinceti of the National Committee for the Promotion of Historical Heritage, Culture and Environment believes they have found Lisa's final resting place. It wouldn't be their first major find - they have also located the reputed remains of the artist Caravaggio and reconstructed the face of the poet Dante. They've been able to use various 16th century records to track her to a particular crypt below a convent where Lisa is thought to have died, and they just discovered stairs that might well lead down to the tomb.

If they can locate the real Mona Lisa, her bones might be of tremendous use in better understanding Leonardo's painting. Assuming a decent amount of her skull has survived, it would be possible to reconstruct what she actually looked like in a computer simulation. That would offer a whole new way of looking at and appreciating the Mona Lisa, more than 500 years after Leonardo first began painting.

Via LiveScience.