Obviously, some people wonder about who Mona Lisa really was — but is it really worth digging up the remains of some woman who has been buried for centuries in the potentially forlorn hope that you can figure it out?
Italian authorities apparently have answered that question in the affirmative. An art historian named Silvano Vinceti thinks that the model for Mona Lisa was a woman named Lisa Gherardini who died in 1542 and is buried in a convent in Florence. He is going to start excavating at the convent Saint Orsola, searching for Ms. Gherardini’s bones. When he finds her skull, he hopes to extract DNA that will allow him to “rebuild her face” using “scientific techniques.” There is some skepticism that the results of the effort will be conclusive. (No kidding!)
I’m all for science, but doesn’t anybody else think this effort is disturbing and ghoulish? Ms. Gherardini was laid to rest more than 550 years ago. Why should her bones be disturbed and used in some dubious science experiment in an effort to satisfy the idle curiosity of the art historians who want to know the subject of the world’s most famous painting? Have we lost all notions of respect for the dignity of the dead? And isn’t part of the allure of the Mona Lisa its enigmatic quality, anyway?