The "Mona Lisa" revealed at last? German academics claim to have helped to solve the centuries-long mystery behind the identity of the "Mona Lisa" in Leonardo da Vinci's famous portrait.
Lisa Gherardino, wife of wealthy Florentine merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, has long been considered the most likely model for the sixteenth-century painting.
Art historians often speculate about whether the smiling woman could have been da Vinci's lover, his mother or the artist himself.
Now experts at the Heidelberg University library say dated notes scribbled in the margins of a book in October 1503 confirm once and for all that Lisa del Giocondo was the model, for one of the most famous portraits in the world.
The notes were made by a Florentine city official Agostino Vespucci, an acquaintance of the artist. They were written in a collection of letters by the Roman orator Cicero.
The notes compare da Vinci to the ancient Greek artist Apelles. The writer notes Leonardo was working on three paintings at the same time, one a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo.
The note was discovered by German manuscript expert Armin Schlechter two years ago. Before then, only "scant evidence" from sixteenth-century documents had been available.
Armin Schlechter, German manuscript expert, said, "This is the earliest evidence that Leonardo da Vinci painted Lisa del Giocondo at all. I think one can be quite sure that she (Lisa Gherardini) is the Mona Lisa".
Art experts, who have already dated the painting to the early years of the sixteenth Century, say the Heidelberg discovery is a breakthrough. It is the earliest mention linking the merchant's wife to the portrait.
Speculation about Giocondo was raised way back around 1550 by an Italian official, Giorgio Vasari. But there were doubts about Vasari's reliability since his comments were made five decades after the portrait was painted.