Pacifica Brandano, Isabella Gualanda, Constanza d’Avalos, Isabela de Aragón or Leonardo da Vinci himself have been some of the alternatives used to find out the true identity of the woman with the mysterious “sfumatta” smile between layers of paint. The “woman of the eternal mystery” we could call her, since the authentic model whose effigy was shaped for eternity by the sublime hand of the Renaissance genius seems to want to be hidden forever.
Of course, the majority opinion categorically states that the beautiful woman was Lisa di Antonmaria Gherardini, a young 24-year-old woman married with the merchant Francesco Bartolomeo del Giocondo. Giorgio Vasari, among others, would have recorded this in his book Lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects (1550). But the truth is that today there is no unanimity about her identity.
But what if the Mona Lisa was really a very important person for Leonardo da Vinci? This is the hypothesis proposed by some authors: that the Mona Lisa was a loved one of Leonardo, specifically his mother, Caterina di Meo Lippi.
And the key would be in the Mona Lisa’s eyebrows and eyelashes, which she doesn’t have. For some, this absence would be due to a female fashion of the time and for others to damage to the painting. But for those who believe that the Mona Lisa was Caterina, they claim that the absence of eyebrows and eyelashes was common among slaves from the Middle East, which is precisely what Leonardo’s mother would have been: a poor peasant woman acquired as a slave by the noble “messer” Piero Fruosino di Antonio, Leonardo’s father. Perhaps that is why Leonardo never gave the painting to the person who commissioned it and always travelled with it, keeping it with him until his death in France, just as we do when we usually carry in our wallets the photographs of our loved ones…