To try to identify the woman portrayed by Leonardo da Vinci in Mona Lisa (photo), researchers will digg up the remains of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a rich silk merchant.
Because of a recently discovered death certificate, art historian Silvano Vinceti thinks she died in 1542 and is buried in a convent in Florence.
Mr Vinceti believes that with her remains he can prove whether or not she was the model for the famous painting, which is kept at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
The excavation is due to begin later this month at Saint Orsola.
For the past five-hundred years art experts have been bemused by the mystery behind da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and her enigmatic smile.
“We can put an end to a centuries-old dispute and also understand Leonardo’s relations to his models,” Mr Vinceti told the Associated Press news agency.
“To him, painting also meant giving a physical representation to the inner traits of their personalities.”
Using scientific techniques, the group led by Mr Vinceti has already reconstructed the faces of some artists on the basis of their skulls.
Last June it claimed to have identified the bones of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, an Italian Renaissance artist, and discovered a possible cause of his mysterious death.
This time Mr Vinceti hopes to extract DNA from the skull of Ms Gherardini in order to rebuild her face.
After spending months studying the artwork, Mr Vinceti claimed to have discovered symbols hidden in the painting.
He said that although Ms Gherardini might have been an early model for the painting, da Vinci might also have been influenced by the face of his young male apprentice and lover.
But there are doubts about the efficiency of analyses conducted on centuries-old bones.