Case File: The Mona Lisa
Location: Paris, France
Description: The Mona Lisa is a famous and iconic portrait of an enigmatic woman painted against against a pastoral background. It is possibly known as one of the most recognized painting by Leonardo de Vinci.
Background: The Mona Lisa is one of the most famous portraits from the Renaissance. It was painted in 1519 in Paris by artist Leonardo Da Vinci. Nobody knew who the woman was and he took her identity to the grave.
Centuries later, in 1986, a computer artist named Lillian Schwartz started working with a new computer program that compares two digitized images. By pure coincidence, she entered in a self portrait of Da Vinci and the Mona Lisa. When the self portrait was reversed and place next to the Mona Lisa, a single face emerged. Lillian was certain that Da Vinci had used himself as the model for the Mona Lisa.
Everything about the face appeared to be a perfect match, including the eyes, the nose, and the mouth. Using a different computer, Lillian even managed to turn up the corners of the self portrait's mouth and compare it to Mona Lisa's smile. In addition, a comparison of the foreheads revealed that the super-orbital ridge on both the portrait and the painting is found mostly in males.
In January of 1987, Lillian took her findings to magazine publisher Wick Allison. He was initially skeptical, but after reviewing her scientific observations, he felt that her theory was correct.
Others, however, are skeptical; they believe that the "self portrait" of Da Vinci used in the comparison may have actually been a forgery. They believe that the Mona Lisa was not a self portrait but was actually the portrait for a wealthy Renaissance woman.
Lillian continued to look for evidence to support her theory. She found a drawing of an Italian duchess named Isabella that was believed to have been a preliminary sketch for the Mona Lisa. Measurements of the duchess's drawing matched an under-sketch of the Mona Lisa. She believes that Da Vinci started with Isabella and then used his own face to complete the portrait.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the November 17, 1993 episode.
Results: Solved. In 2005, the Mona Lisa was finally identified as a woman named Lisa del Giocondo after a researcher discovered a margin note written by a friend of Leonardo's that said that the portrait was of Lisa.