Rome: Forget her smile. An Italian researcher says the key to solving the enigmas of "Mona Lisa" lies in her eyes.
Silvano Vinceti claims he has found the letter "S" in the woman's left eye, the letter "L" in her right eye, and the number "72" under the arched bridge in the backdrop of Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting. According to the researcher, the symbols open up new leads to identifying the model, dating the painting, and attesting to Leonardo's interest in religion and mysticism.
This is just the latest theory about a painting that has never ceased to intrigue scholars, art lovers and casual viewers alike. Others have claimed the painting is really the portrait of a man, or a self-portrait, while speculation over the reason for the model's famously enigmatic smile have ranged from pregnancy to mourning.
Some Leonardo scholars have expressed doubt over the new findings or their significance, with one calling them "unsubstantial."
The newly found symbols are not visible to the naked eye. Vinceti said today they are "very small, painted with a tiny brush and subjected to the wear and tear of time."
Vinceti has not studied the painting directly at the Louvre Museum, where it is on display. He said his research was based on high-definition scanned images from the Lumiere Technology in Paris, which specialises in digitising artworks.
Back in Italy, a Rome laboratory digitally excluded reflexes and other colours in the eyes in order to isolate the letters and make them stand out, Vinceti said.
The number "72" was recently found hidden in an arch of the bridge to the right of the model, he told.
Tradition holds that the "Mona Lisa" is a painting of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo, and that Leonardo started painting it in 1503.
First Published: Friday, January 14, 2011, 09:10