Italian scientists to dug up Leonardo da Vinci's bones

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London, Jan 24 (ANI): A group of scientists is seeking permission to open the tomb in which Leonardo da Vinci is believed to lie, in a bid to reconstruct his face and discover whether his masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, is a disguised self-portrait.

Leonardo is laid at Amboise castle, in the Loire valley, where he died in 1519, aged 67.

The team from Italy's National Committee for Cultural Heritage, a leading association of scientists and art historians, wants to exhume the remains of the great painter to be able to throw new light on his most famous work, reports The Times.

Giorgio Gruppioni, an anthropologist, said: "If we manage to find his skull, we could rebuild Leonardo's face and compare it with the Mona Lisa," he said.

Mona Lisa's true identity has been a mystery for ages, with speculation ranging from Leonardo's mother to Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine merchant.

Silvano Vincenti, head of the Italian team, said: "There aren't any clues in the history books, but we'll be able to find out if Leonardo died of a disease such as syphilis or tuberculosis, because that shows up in the bones." Syphilis was seen as a form of plague at the time: some 20m people died of it in the first quarter of the 16th century," Vincenti said.

Nicholas Turner, a former curator of drawings at the Getty Museum, said: "It sounds a bit fanciful, slightly mad, as if the Leonardo bug has taken hold too firmly in the minds of these people. We know that Mona Lisa was a specific person, she existed and it's her portrait. If Leonardo heard about all this, he'd have a good chuckle." (ANI)

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