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It's Mona Lisa... as a boy

Italian art detectives claim da Vinci’s masterpiece of mysterious woman may in fact depict a male lover of the artist.

The Mona Lisa has been an inspiration to artistic types for centuries - but have we got her/him all wrong?
The Mona Lisa has been an inspiration to artistic types for centuries - but have we got her/him all wrong?
Image: PA Images/Rui Vieira

IF BOTTICELLI HAD painted him, he would be Venus as a boy. (Apologies, Bjork fans). As it turns out, it’s the Mona Lisa – the painterly epitome of womanly wile – who may have been a ‘he’.

Italian researchers said yesterday that they believe Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, may not depict the wife of a wealthy patron as had previously been thought.

Silvano Vinceti, head of Italy’s cultural heritage committee,  instead claimed that there were “remarkable similarities” between the Mona Lisa and Salai, a male apprentice and possible lover of da Vinci’s. Salai worked for da Vinci for 25 years and is believed to have posed for other paintings of the Renaissance artists. According to the Daily Telegraph, Salai went to work for da Vinci when he was just 10 years old.

Vinceti claimed that the pair had an “ambiguous” relationship and were most likely lovers. The suggestion that Salai was also the model for the Mona Lisa came from his team’s comparison of the facial characteristics of the Mona Lisa character with others in da Vinci’s body of work. The mouth and nose in particular were strikingly similar, he said.

However, Vinceti’s claims that he and his team found the letter ‘L’ and ‘S’ painted into the Mona Lisa’s eyes has been quashed by the Louvre in Paris where the painting hangs. The museum spokesperson told AFP:

The ageing of the painting on wood has caused a great number of cracks to appear in the paint, which have caused a number of shapes to appear that have often been subject to over-interpretation.

The Louvre also claimed that Vinceti had not had access to the painting to properly investigate.

Vinceti, however, isn’t taking it lying down:

I can understand their incredulity and amazement – after all this must be the most studied picture on earth. They’re really blind.

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