London, Jul 18 : Archaeologists have inched closer to unravelling the secret behind Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile, as they believe to have discovered the skeleton of the model who posed for Da Vinci’s masterpiece. Archaeologists in Italy have found a skeleton buried beneath the floor of a convent in Florence, which they believe belonged to Lisa Gherardini, the model who posed for Leonardo’s da Vinci’s painting, ‘The Mona Lisa’, the ‘Daily News’ reported. Lisa Gherardini, was the wife of a rich silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo.

The painting has long also been known as La Gioconda, linking it to Gherardini’s husband, Francesco del Giocondo, who commissioned da Vinci to paint his wife. Digging will begin later this month at a convent in central Florence where Gherardini was buried in 1542. The same research team last year unearthed bones of the artist Caravaggio and discovered a possible cause of his death 400 years earlier. Researchers this time will hunt for Gherardini’s specific tomb at the convent using radar and seeking the remains of a woman in her 60s who died in the mid-1500s, reports the Guardian. They’ll carry out carbon dating and DNA tests to link remains to Gherardini’s children’s remains, also buried in Florence.

Most modern historians agree that the lady depicted in the Mona Lisa was Lisa del Giocondo, who became a nun after her husband’s death. She died at the age of 63 at the Convent of Saint Ursula on July 15, 1542. An archaeological team began digging at the abandoned convent last year. They had found a crypt believed to have been Lisa’s final resting place and soon after they unearthed a female-sized human skull. The skull was unearthed five feet under the convent’s original floor along with other fragments of human ribs and vertebrae. The dig which resumed last month, found a human skeleton this week. The bones will undergo tests to establish if they match the skull found last year. The DNA in the bones will be compared with the remains of the model’s two children. Once the scientists have verified that the skeleton and skull belong to the model, forensic artists will attempt to reconstruct her face and see how it compares to the 500-year-old version painted by da Vinci – and perhaps solve the riddle of the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile in the process, the report said. “We don’t know yet if the bones belong to one single skeleton or more than one. But this confirms our hypothesis that in St. Ursula convent there are still human bones and we cannot exclude that among them there are bones belonging to Lisa Gherardini,” archaeologist Silvano Vinceti, who is in charge of the dig was quoted as saying by the paper.

The painting is in oil on panel, started by Da Vinci in 1503 or 1504 and finished in 1519, shortly before his death, and after he had moved to France. Known in Italy as La Gioconda, it is considered the most famous painting in the world. The Mona Lisa is owned by the French government.