Patt Morrison for July 19, 2012

Digging up the most famous smile ever

President of the Italian National Commit

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

President of the Italian National Committee for Historical, Cultural and Environment Heritage, Italian researcher Silvano Vinceti, gestures during a press conference on February 02, 2011 at the foreign press club in Rome.

The remains of one of the most famous women in history may have been found at an old convent in Florence, Italy. A team of archaeologists headed by art historian Silvano Vincenti say they have possibly found the skeleton of Lisa Gherardini, widely believed to be the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Vincenti and his team now hope to match the skeleton’s DNA with the confirmed remains of Gherardini’s sons. If the skeleton does belong to Gherardini, the team’s ultimate goal is to piece together the actual bones behind that famous and historic smile. But one man’s archaeologist is another man’s grave robber. The ancestors of Lisa Gherardini and others in the art community have protested the endeavor, calling it inappropriate and sacrilegious.

WEIGH IN:

Does history take precedent in this situation, or should scientists respect that Gherardini’s body has already been laid to rest?

Guests:

Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for the New Yorker

Eunice Howe, professor of art history at the USC; her PhD is in Italian Renaissance art

Randy Cohen, former writer of "the Ethicist" column at "The New York Times"; author of the upcoming book "Be Good: Navigating the Ethics of Everything"


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