Lisa Gherardini (aka Mona Lisa), the wife of Florentine cloth merchant Francesco del Giocondo, was born on this day in 1479 in Florence. She is famous today for her portrait by Leonardo da Vinci (now at the Louvre), though debate remains as to whether Giorgio Vasari was correct in his identification of Leonardo’s enigmatic sitter. In 2005, Professor Veit Probst of Heidelberg University discovered a note written by Agostino Vespucci in 1503 that gives greater weight to this identification. Vespucci compares Leonardo to the great ancient Greek painter Apelles using the artist’s portrait-in-progress of Lisa del Giocondo to make his point.

Recently, a copy in the Museo del Prado, Madrid was cleaned and examined to reveal that it was made contemporaneously with Leonardo’s masterpiece. Its newly revealed surface gives a sense of what Leonardo’s painting might look like if it were to undergo treatment.

In 2012, Italian researchers exhumed the body of Lisa Gherardini to undertake forensic research to see if her face was in fact the one painted by Leonardo.

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