ITALIAN researchers who specialise in resolving art mysteries said today they have discovered the disputed identity of the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa - and claimed he was a man.
Silvano Vinceti, chairman of the Italian national committee for cultural heritage, said the Florence-born Renaissance artist's male apprentice and possible lover Salai was the main inspiration for the picture.
However his claim was immediately disputed by experts at the Louvre in Paris, where the painting is on display.
Salai, real name Gian Giacomo Caprotti, a young artist who worked with da Vinci for 25 years, is thought to have served as a model and muse for several of his paintings. The pair had an "ambiguous" relationship and were probably lovers, Mr Vinceti said.
Comparisons between the facial characteristics of figures from several of da Vinci's works -- such as St. John the Baptist and the Angel Incarnate - reveal striking similarities with the Mona Lisa's nose and mouth, he said.