A group of Italian scientists and art historians are appealing to the French government to exhume the skull of the great Leonardo Da Vinci to prove a theory about his greatest work, The Mona Lisa.
The team believes that the painting may actually be a self-portrait of the artist in disguise, based on its similarities to a 1515 self-portrait, da Vinci’s homosexuality and fascination with riddles.
In an effort to investigate the hypothesis that the famous portrait is actually a disguised self-portrait of da Vinci, the group has requested permission to open the Renaissance master’s tomb and use his skull to “rebuild Leonardo’s face and compare it with the Mona Lisa,” anthropologist Giorgio Gruppioni told the Times of London.
Da Vinci’s remains reside at Amboise Castle in France’s Loire valley, where they were taken after the church where he was originally laid to rest was destroyed during the French Revolution. Thus far the scholars say the French government has agreed to allow the exhumation in principle, and that formal approval could be granted by this summer — a prospect that has disquieted other Leonardo scholars who wonder if exploring the unusual theory is worth disturbing the artist’s resting place.
However, supporters of the investigation point to similarities between the Mona Lisa’s facial structure and that of the artist’s own face as evidenced in a circa 1515 self-portrait, also citing da Vinci’s homosexuality and interest in riddles as support for the conjecture. This undertaking would have tickled Marcel Duchamp. The keen wit behind L.H.O.O.Q. (1919), a reproduction of the Mona Lisa embellished with a mustache, the late Modernist icon had a cross-dressing artistic alter ego himself, Rrose Sélavy.