Art historians have speculated for centuries about the true identity of Mona Lisa's sitter, but now researchers want to add a little 21st century technology into the mix.
The scientists from the University of California at Riverside have initiated a project called FACES (Faces, Art, and Computerized Evaluation Systems), which aims to use state of the art facial recognition technology to answer some of the art world's most enduring questions.
To test the system, they plan to start with a few simpler tasks, such as matching a statue of Lorenzo de' Medici to a death mask taken directly from his face after death. If this proves successful, they will move on to the much trickier task of identifying people from two-dimensional pictures. The fact that they were often painted by less than perfectly accurate artists, only make the job tougher still.
While most art historians believe the Mona Lisa is a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, many alternate sitters have been suggested over the years including Da Vinci's male apprentice Gian Giacomo Caprotti. Last year a skull supposedly belonging to Lisa del Giocondo was exhumed, but it's not clear if this will be used as part of the U Cal test.
I just hope they can figure out why she has that smirk on her face.