London: Researchers have dug up ancient graves in a dilapidated Florence convent for the remains of a woman who apparently acted as renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci`s model for Mona Lisa.
Experts, who have been working in the Saint Orsola convent since April, believe the body of the woman who modelled for da Vinci back in the 16th century is buried there.
Art historians in Italy believe that real Mona Lisa was Lisa Gherardini, wife of a rich Florentine silk merchant, who is thought to have commissioned the portrait.
Researchers say that if they can find her skull, they will be able to reconstruct Gherardini`s face and compare it with the masterpiece, the `Sky News` reported.
"If everything goes as planned, we will find Gherardini and with her skull we will be able to reconstruct her face thanks to some sophisticated technology," said Silvano Vinceti, head of the National Committee for the Promotion of Historic and Cultural Heritage.
"After that we will be able to compare the face to that of Mona Lisa and maybe for the first time will get an answer which will be based on highly sophisticated technology which does not make errors.
"With this reconstruction of the face there is a margin of error between four and eight per cent so we will know whether Leonardo used Gherardini or we will be able to draw other conclusions," Vinceti said.
According to researchers, Gherardini spent the last years of her life at the convent, looked after by her two daughters who were nuns.
They are hoping the project will reveal crucial information about the bodies buried in the convent.
"The first phase of the work consists of opening up the remains as much as possible. Then we need to collect information about the manner of burial," anthropologist Irene Baldi said.
Gherardini might have been an early model for the Mona Lisa, but da Vinci was probably also inspired by the face of his young male apprentice, Gian Giacomo Caprotti, who some say was his lover.