Mona Lisa … Was it a case of eonism… ?

The Paris Louvre is not happy. Signor Silvano Vincenti, head of a team of scientists and historians of Italy’s National Committee for Culture and Heritage is claiming that the woman on Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th–century painting, ‘Mona Lisa’ (‘La Joconde’ or ‘La Giacondo’) is in fact a man. He claims that studies of the painting […]

The Paris Louvre is not happy.

Signor Silvano Vincenti, head of a team of scientists and historians of Italy’s National Committee for Culture and Heritage is claiming that the woman on Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th–century painting, ‘Mona Lisa’ (‘La Joconde’ or ‘La Giacondo’) is in fact a man.

He claims that studies of the painting have revealed that there is a letter under each of the woman’s eyes.

The letters are an L and an S: L for Leonardo and S for Salai.

Salai (Little Devil) was the nickname Leonardo had given Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Orena, his lover. Gian, when only 10 years old, had joined Leonardo’s household as servant and assistant. That was around 1488 and the two men had remained companions for the next 30 years. Salai, having become known as Leonardo’s pupil although he had never produced any paintings, had left Leonardo in 1518. Leonardo by then had another pupil, the young Count Francesco Melzi, who had joined his household in 1506, aged 15.

Leonardo's 'Saint John the Baptist'

Apart from the L and the S which are not visible to the naked eye, further proof that the woman on the painting is Salai, says Signor Vincenti, is the remarkable resemblance between the Mona Lisa and the young man who was the model for Leonardo’s ‘Saint John the Baptist’, like the ‘Mona Lisa’ on display in the Louvre. That model was Salai.

According to the angry Louvre which displays the ‘Mona Lisa’ as a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, spouse of Francesco del Giocondo, a rich silk merchant from Florence, two examinations of the Mona Lisa, one in 2004 and the other in 2009, did not reveal any letters or writing in the painting.

It is furthermore hitting back at Signor Vincenti by saying that he is neither a scientist nor a historian, but a TV presenter and writer who has started to specialize in the exhumation of the bodies of famous people, i.e. Durante degli Alighieri  or Dante (1265/1321)  and the Italian artist Caravaggio (1571-1610).

Signor Vincenti is certainly not unknown to the French because in January 2010 he had requested permission from the French ministry of culture and from the owners of the Amboise Chateau in the Loire Valley where Leonardo lies buried to exhume the body for carbon dating, DNA tests to determine whether it is really the body of Leonardo in that grave, and to determine what he had died of – perhaps syphilis or tuberculosis? The French had promised to think about it but today, a year later, the body is still lying in Amboise Castle’s Saint Hubert Chapel. Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci had died aged 67 on May 2, 1519 at Clos Lucé in France.

Leonardo da Vinci

Signor Vincenti had also wanted to study the skull that he would find in the grave in order to determine whether Leonardo, in drag, had not perhaps himself been the model for his ‘Mona Lisa’.

However, now, Signor Vincenti is thinking that Salai, dressed as a woman, had been the one who had sat for the painting.

So did either Leonardo or Salai suffer from eonism, the medical name for cross-dressing? Or was it just Leonardo? Or only Salai?

Transvestite, the Chevalier d'Eon who gave cross-dressing its medical name of Eonism.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

5 Responses

2-5-2011 at 14:17:46

My personal reaction, who cares. You either think its a wonderful painting or you don’t. Personally I don’t. A friend once said Leonardo painted in all the things he most disliked about women and I tend to agree. It has been said for years that it might be a self portrait. You have taught me a new word, eonism. Not one in regular use in this part of the world.

2-5-2011 at 16:36:39

Jo, I came across the word ‘eonism’ when I was doing research for Die in Paris. Dr. Petiot had books about him in his library, so I had to find out who he was. Full name was Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont, known as the Chevalier d’Éon. He was a French diplomat, spy, soldier and Freemason who lived the first half of his life as a man and the second half as a woman. He was born in 1728 and died in London in 1810. He lived in London as a woman, but doctors
who examined his body discovered that he was in fact a man. Interesting individual and could make a good book.

2-14-2011 at 16:24:00

I’m with Jo, who cares really.

I love the Mona Lisa. Yet, can’t make up my mind if “she” is smiling or smirking.

[…] The young cross-dresser’s real name was Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Orena (right). (I wrote about it here.) Signor Silvano Vincenti upset the the Louvre with that allegation, and the signor has done so yet […]

[…] The young cross-dresser’s real name was Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Orena (right). (I wrote about it here.) Signor Silvano Vincenti upset the the Louvre with that allegation, and the signor has done so yet […]

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