Silvano Vinceti, the president of Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage, believes that the model for Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was a young man named Gian Giacomo Caprotti, also known as Salai.
“Salai was a favorite model for Leonardo,” Vinceti said to the Daily Mail. “Leonardo certainly inserted characteristics of Salai in the last version of the Mona Lisa.”
Vinceti also says that by using state-of-the-art magnification techniques he has found an “S” in Mona Lisa’s eyes, which he says may be a reference to Salai.
Salai is believed to have been the model for some of Da Vinci’s other works, including his famed portrait of St. John the Baptist. Although most art historians believe that the model for Mona Lisa was a 24-year-old named Lisa Gheradini, Vincetti insists that Salai was at least partly the inspiration for what is arguably the world’s most famous painting.
Da Vinci experts are unimpressed with Vincetti’s research. Pietro Marini, an art professor at Milan’s Politecnico University, calls the theory “groundless.”
“The work began as the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, but over the years it slowly turned into something else; an idealized portrait, not a specific one,” he tells the Daily Mail. “That’s also why you have this fascinating face that transcends time and transcends a specific person, and why all these theories keep piling up.”