‘Mo-na Lisa’

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WiC might have stumbled onto something back in 2010 when we began featuring the Mona Lisa dressed in a Chinese qipao on the Great Wall (an image that still features on our back page). Because it turns out that the woman depicted as the Mona Lisa might have been Leonardo da Vinci’s mother – and a Chinese slave – according to research by an Italian historian.

“I am sure up to a point that Leonardo’s mother was from the Orient, but to make her an oriental Chinese, we need to use a deductive method,” Angelo Paratico told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.

In support of this claim, Paratico says that a wealthy client of Leonardo’s father had employed a slave called Caterina. After 1452, Leonardo’s date of birth, she disappeared from the documents.

“She was no longer working there. During the Renaissance, countries like Italy and Spain were full of oriental slaves,” he says.

Paratico then turns to the famous portrait for further evidence, citing Sigmund Freud’s view that it is probably a portrayal of Leonardo’s mother.

“On the back of Mona Lisa, there is a Chinese landscape and even her face looks Chinese,” he insists. His argument will be repeated in full next year in Leonardo da Vinci: the Chinese Scholar Lost in Renaissance Italy.

Some netizens thought that the claims make sense. “I now understand why her smile looks so mysterious and concealed – it’s typically Chinese,” wrote one.

Others rejected the speculation. “She was a slave? Wasn’t China a very strong country in that era?” asked one. “Whose slave would smile like that? Didn’t she have to work?” scoffed another.

But there was another school of thought that the mysterious figure may well have hailed from another part of Asia. “Stop it! She is obviously Korean,” argued one. “Look carefully! Mona Lisa has obviously had long chin surgery and a boob job… so she must have been a Korean,” another agreed.

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