Mona Lisa Or Mona Leo? Was She Really A Man?


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Most likely, when looking at arguably one of the most famous artistic masterpieces, one of those words making the list usually doesn’t include questioning what sex the subject for the inspiration is. Yet, in a shocking discovery, Italian researchers are now speculating that the model for none other than Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, may have been male!

As reported by Associated Press, “the identity of the Mona Lisa, which hangs in the Louvre in Paris and draws 8.5 million visitors a year, has been an enduring mystery.” But now, A group of Italian scientists and art historians in Rome have announced today that da Vinci’s male apprentice and longtime lover and companion was in fact the main influence and model for the famed Mona Lisa painting. I know! You would think a gay male model would have been a little more familiar with skin moisturizer.

A couple years ago, Reuters carried a story about German experts that claimed they had cracked the identity of the Mona Lisa portrait beyond a doubt. For many years, it was believed that Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, was the golden girl, but nobody seemed to have concrete evidence. Then in 2008, those suspicions were confirmed. “Experts at the Heidelberg University library say dated notes scribbled in the margins of a book by its owner in October 1503 confirm once and for all that Lisa del Giocondo was indeed the model for one of the most famous portraits in the world.”

Okay. Now that we know that… fast forward to today’s new theory that “the apprentice Gian Giacomo Caprotti, known as Salai, worked with Leonardo for more than two decades starting in 1490. Researcher Silvano Vinceti described their relationship as ‘ambiguous,’ and most art historians agree Salai was a Leonardo lover.”

When you think about it, it’s hard to take any expert’s side on the matter. I mean, forget the individual’s identity or sex, we can’t even pinpoint the time or place. “Traditionally, many art historians say Leonardo started panting the Mona Lisa in 1503, when he was back from his stay in Milan. Though, Vinceti says he may have started in the late 1490s still in Milan. With all these precarious possibilities surrounding this piece, I feel the only thing to do at this point is appreciate the work and come up with your own tale.

That stated, I would like to take a completely unfounded stab at the identity while duly noting I am well aware and first to admit that my knowledge of ancient art history is less than rudimentary at best. After considering the numerous theories regarding the identity which have included da Vinci himself as a self-portrait, his mother, his male lover, and wife of a wealthy merchant. I’m going to turn them all down. Picture it. Italy. 1495. A struggling artist walks through the village square. He stumbles upon a sexually ambiguous young man he mistakes for a bag lady. They share a laugh and a loaf of day old Italian bread with pigeons at a nearby street corner that’s most likely a bus stop today. This of course leads to a one night stand fueled by passion, poor judgment, and a whole hell of a lot of Chianti. Later that evening, our ambiguous stranger shoots da Vinci a confused look that appears as a half-smile in the dim candlelight which is immediately captured by his paint brush. And presto! With hands joined together, the two look upon the magnificent creation all the while grinning, knowing that nobody would ever guess that the inspiration for what will become one of the most famous pieces of art in history came from nothing more than an Italian casual encounter. I’m guessing if da Vinci were around today… he’d be doing a lot of painting with the help of Craigslist.

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