Mona Lisa ‘Was a Boy,’ an Italian Art Historian Says

Leonardo da Vinci modelled the “Mona Lisa” painting on the face of his young male apprentice, longtime companion and possible lover, an Italian art historian has claimed.

Secret Mona Lisa: A male apprentice, longtime companion and possible lover of Leonardo da Vinci was the main influence and a model for the Mona Lisa painting, an Italian researcher says. Photo: Brandon Carson/Flickr

A lot of art Historians believe that Leonardo Da Vinci’s 500-year-old Renaissance masterpiece – which is on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris now – depicts Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy Florentine silk merchant, the Daily Telegraph (UK) reports.

However, Silvano Vinceti, the head of a team of researchers, believes instead that the ‘Mona Lisa’ painting was inspired by Gian Giacomo Caprotti, who began working with the Renaissance master as a child and became one of his most trusted companions.

The researcher said several of Leonardo’s works, including two paintings of St John the Baptist and a painting called “Angel Incarnate,” were based on Caprotti. All of them portray a slim, rather effeminate youth with curly hair.

There were striking similarities between those works and that of the Mona Lisa, particularly in the depiction of mouths and noses, said Mr Vinceti, the head of the National Committee for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.

The apprentice Gian Giacomo Caprotti, known as Salai or Little Devil, worked with Leonardo for more than two decades starting in 1490, when he was about 10 years old. Vinceti described their relationship as “ambiguous,” and most art historians agree Salai was a Leonardo lover.

“Salai was a favourite model for Leonardo,” Mr Vinceti. “Leonardo certainly inserted characteristics of Salai in the Mona Lisa. Salai was very handsome and probably Leonardo’s lover.”

He was the subject of several erotic drawings produced by the Renaissance genius. “He stole from Leonardo and caused him many problems, but the artist always forgave him,” he added.

Silvano Vinceti also said the portrait also represents a synthesis of Leonardo’s scientific, artistic and philosophical beliefs. “The Mona Lisa must be read at various levels, not just as a portrait,” Vinceti said.

Because the artist worked on it at various intervals for many years, he was subjected to different influences and sources of inspiration, and the canvas is full of hidden symbolic meanings.

Vinceti added further inspiration may have come from noblewoman Beatrice D’Este, who was married to Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, at whose court Leonardo worked in the late 15th century.

Vinceti said that Leonardo often would see the woman while he was painting ‘The Last Supper’ for the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, where she went to pray.

However, other art historians are sceptical about the Vinceti’s theory. Pietro Marani, a Leonardo authority and the author of several books on the artist, called the theory “groundless.”

Silvano Vinceti made his name when he said he had located Caravaggio’s long-lost bones last year. He combines state-of-the-art, CSI-like techniques with old-fashioned library research.

Analysing high-definition scanned images of the Mona Lisa, Vinceti claimed in recent weeks to have found the letter S and L in the model’s eyes, and the number 72 under the arched bridge in the backdrop of the painting.

He attaches several symbolic meanings to these letters: the S pointed him to Salai and the Sforza dynasty that ruled Milan, while the L is a reference to the artist himself and Lisa Gherardini.

There are a lot of theories that have circulated over the decades about the identity of Mona Lisa and the meaning for her famously enigmatic smile. Others have said the painting was a self-portrait in disguise, or the depiction of a Florentine merchant’s wife – the latter drawing a consensus among scholars.

The Mona Lisa is an oil on panel painting owned by the French government and is known in Italy, where it was painted, as La Gioconda. The image is so widely recognised and caricatured that it is considered the most famous painting in the world. [via The Telegraph (UK) and Nine MSN]

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