Antonio Denti, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Jeremy Gaunt
Apr 25th 2016 11:55AM
FLORENCE, Italy, April 25 (Reuters) - Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile draws millions of viewers from across the world, all eager to see the art world's most famous female face. But is it?
An Italian art detective is arguing that research backs his long-standing claim that Leonardo Da Vinci used both a female and male model to create the acclaimed portrait that hangs in Paris' Louvre museum.
While the identity of the woman is not certain, historians believe Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, sat for Da Vinci for the painting.
See more of the legendary painting:
The Mona Lisa and the Louvre
Art detective says female and male model used for Mona Lisa face
PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 28: Visitors take pictures of Leonardo da Vinci 'Mona Lisa' inside the Louvre museum on February 28, 2014 in Paris, France. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, one of the world's largest museums which opened 1793. (Photo by Christian Marquardt/Getty Images)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Front) and his wife Akie (3rd R) look at 'La Joconde', a 1503-1506 oil on wood portrait of Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, at the Louvre Museum in Paris on May 4, 2014. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in France Sunday on the latest leg of a six-nation European tour for trade and security talks at a time of mounting tensions with China. Abe arrived in the French capital on Sunday afternoon and immediately left for a private visit to the Louvre that included stops at the museum's best known works, including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
The Louvre is one of the world's largest museums and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, where famous sculptures and paintings like Mona Lisa are displayed. (Photo by Jayakumar Radhakrishnan via Getty Images)
Alessandro Vezzosi, the director of the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Vinci, presents a painting unveiled by the Mona Lisa Foundation on September 27, 2012 in Geneva. The Swiss foundation claims the painting is an earlier version of the 'Mona Lisa' painted by Leonardo da Vinci, although some experts said the claim was unlikely. The Zurich-based Mona Lisa Foundation presented what it described as a 'stunning portrait of Lisa del Giocondo,' along with results from 35 years of research and scientific tests which it claimed proved it was the work of da Vinci and had been completed about 10 years before its famous sister in the Louvre. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages)
Picture of a TV screen showing scientific tests made on 'Isleworth Mona Lisa' (L) and the Louvre Museum da Vinci's masterpiece taken during the unveiling by the Mona Lisa Foundation on September 27, 2012 in Geneva of what the foundation claims is an earlier version of the 'Mona Lisa' painted by Leonardo da Vinci, although some experts said the claim was unlikely. The Zurich-based Mona Lisa Foundation presented what it described as a 'stunning portrait of Lisa del Giocondo,' along with results from 35 years of research and scientific tests which it claimed proved it was the work of da Vinci and had been completed about 10 years before its famous sister in the Louvre. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages)
Paris, France - February 19, 2014: Beautiful view of the Louvre museum in Paris, France, on February 19, 2014
Paris, France - June 18, 2014: Louvre museum at dusk on June 18, 2014 in Paris. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in France displayed over 60,000 square meters of exhibition space.
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But Silvano Vinceti, who heads Italy's National Committee for the Promotion of Historic and Cultural Heritage, says he used infrared technology to examine the painting and made key findings in its first layer.
"In that layer we can see that she was not smiling and joyful but looked melancholic and sad," he said, adding the second model was Gian Giacomo Caprotti - Da Vinci's male apprentice, known as Salai.
Using Photoshop, Vinceti compared the "Mona Lisa" face to other Da Vinci works Salai is believed to have posed for, including "St John the Baptist."
"We have used all the paintings in which Leonardo used Salai as a model and compared them to the 'Mona Lisa' and certain details correspond perfectly; so he used two models and added creative details which came from his own imagination," he said.
"I believe that this goes with a long-time fascination of Leonardo's, that is, the subject of androgyny. In other words, for Leonardo, the perfect person was a combination of a man and a woman."
Vinceti also bases his theory on claims by 16th Italian art historian and painter Giorgio Vasari that Gherardini's husband hired clowns to try to make her smile for the sitting.
Salai's name has in the past been linked to the "Mona Lisa," but other historians have dismissed the claims.