One art historian thinks so. He thinks he’s cracked the code to the Mona Lisa's elusive smile was inspired by da Vinci’s gay lover.
Art historian Silvano Vinceti, after examining an infra-red analysis of the famous painting, claims that the was based on two people in da Vinci’s life: a rich Tuscan merchant’s wife, Lisa Gherardini, as most historians would agree and the artist’s apprentice (and alleged lover) Gian Giacomo Caprotti, known to da Vinci as Salai or “Little Devil.”
In an interview, Vinceti, who heads the research group National Committee for Cultural Heritage, explained that the infra-red findings prove that “the Mona Lisa is androgynous–half man and half woman.”
“You see it particularly in Mona Lisa’s nose and in her forehead and her smile.”
Vinceti’s claims are based on a close study of other paintings of Salai, who lived and worked with da Vinci for nearly twenty years.
Juicy though Vinceti’s analysis is, many art experts aren’t sold on the idea that the painting was inspired by the artist’s young apprentice. Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of the history of art at Trinity College, Oxford says,
“This is a mish-mash of known things, semi-known things and complete fantasy. The infra-red images do nothing to support the idea that Leonardo somehow painted a blend of Lisa Gherardini and Salai.”
Kemp, is currently at work on a new book, Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting, adds that no one knows for sure what exactly Salai looked like. (Although, many have said the drawing above is Salai.)
“Giorgio Vasari (a contemporary painter and a chronicler of Renaissance artists) described him as a pretty boy with curly hair, but that was a standard type of the era. It featured in Leonardo’s work long before Salai came on the scene.”
It commonly believed that upon Leonardo’s death in 1519, Salaì inherited several paintings including the Mona Lisa, which might back up the theory that Salai was the model for the painting.