Veil suggests Mona Lisa model was pregnant

As if her enigmatic smile had not inspired enough debate over the centuries, the mysterious Mona Lisa was the subject of renewed controversy yesterday. Scientists now claim the young woman depicted in Leonardo da Vinci's 16th century masterpiece was either pregnant or had recently given birth.

"Thanks to laser scanning, we were able to uncover the very fine gauze veil Mona Lisa was wearing on her dress. This was something typical for either soon-to-be or new mothers at the time," explained Michel Menu, of the French Museums' Centre for Research and Restoration.

The Mona Lisa, or La Gioconda, was in fact Lisa Gherardini, the wife of the wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. Aged 24, when Da Vinci began painting her in 1503, she outlived her husband and had five children. Some experts believe the portrait may have been commissioned to commemorate the birth of her second son. Da Vinci was still working on the piece when he emigrated to France in 1516 and is believed to have finished it just before his death three years later.

The new findings emerged after the most extensive three-dimensional scan ever undertaken on the painting. Scientists from the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) used laser and infrared scans, 10 times finer than a human hair, to reveal details previously hidden by darkened paint and varnish.

These include a slightly different posture, the fact her hair was originally in a bun and the gauze dress, which they say was worn by Italians in the early 16th century when they were pregnant or had just given birth.

Yesterday, however, Mr Menu explained that all the secrets behind the painting have yet to be revealed. Da Vinci's smoky technique continues to elude experts. "Our laboratory is trying to uncover Da Vinci's techniques. We particularly want to understand how he painted shadows, the famous sfumato effect," he said.

The French artist and art historian Jacques Franck ­ a controversial figure but an acknowledged authority on Da Vinci ­ claimed this year to have cracked the conundrum which has defeated art experts for almost 500 years. He insisted that he could approximate it with an ultra-fine hatching or criss-crossing of brush strokes.

Other scholars remain sceptical and continue to examine the technique.

This is not the first time that the "Mona Lisa was pregnant" theory has surfaced. In 1959 a British doctor, Kenneth D Keele, published a paper in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences insisting that the woman in the world's most famous painting had a " puffy neck" caused by an enlarged thyroid gland, a sure sign she is pregnant.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
News
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style