Dig for Mona Lisa's Bones to Begin

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- The remains of Lisa Gherardini, the Renaissance woman believed to have inspired Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, might be exhumed.

- Researchers will investigate the ground below a now derelict building in the heart of Florence.

- The project aims to find Lisa's bones and possibly reconstruct her facial features.

The woman believed to have inspired Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa may be exhumed in a bid to recreate her face, Italian researchers announced this week.

Most scholars believe that the Mona Lisa, known as La Gioconda in Italian or La Joconde in French, is the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, a member of a minor noble family of rural origins who married the wealthy merchant Francesco del Giocondo.

"Her life is no longer a mystery," said Giuseppe Pallanti, who carried out extensive research on the Renaissance woman.

Pallanti, who is not involved in the project, traced back Lisa's life from her birth on June 15, 1479 to her death at the age of 63. He discovered that Lisa died in the convent of Sant'Orsola, a now derelict building in the heart of Florence.

The hunt for her bones will start there later this month.

"Ground-penetration radar used in an initial survey revealed the likely presence of a crypt in the grounds below the convent's church. We believe Lisa Gherardini is buried there," Silvano Vinceti, the president of an organization called the National Committee for the Promotion of Historic and Cultural Heritage, announced at a news conference in Florence this week.

The project aims to find Lisa's bones and possibly reconstruct her face using carbon dating, DNA analysis and forensic techniques.

"We could compare the DNA that we find in the bones to that of Bartolomeo and Piero, Lisa's children who are buried in the church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence," Francesco Mallegni, an anthropologist at Pisa's university, said.

If enough skull fragments are found, Mallegni will try to reconstruct Lisa's facial features, in order to see if her face matches that of the iconic painting hanging at the Louvre museum in Paris.