Researchers in Florence, Italy, the Cradle of the Italian Renaissance, have announced their intention to figure out the identity of the lady we call Mona Lisa. They are apparently digging among the bones of the Gherardini family trying to find a lady they believe lived across the street from Leonardo daVinci. This means plundering the family tomb to compare the bones they pull out of that locale to those they’ve already found in a nearby convent. Their goal is to identity a skull as that of Mrs. Gherardini, and then do reconstruction analysis to determine that she was in fact daVinci’s model. If the skull has bad teeth, they may even say that this is why the painting’s smile is so subtle. And that will be another case closed in the fog-shrouded annals of world mysteries.
My only question is why. Do we really want to spoil the mystery of Mona Lisa by digging up a skull, running it through a bunch of computer simulations, and then congratulating ourselves on having destroyed the reason why people travel from all over the world every year to see what Nat King Cole called “the lady with the mystic smile”? Aren’t some things better left to the imagination? Do we really have to know the cold facts behind every source of romantic wonderment? Must we reduce every alluring enigma to cold science?
Do we really want to know what happened to Emilia Earhart or Glenn Miller? Don’t we in our heart of hearts love a mystery? Daily life can often be a monotonous undertaking. We can easily find ourselves caught in the crusher of the various challenges besetting us. The Loch Ness Monster, The Bermuda Triangle, and The Shroud of Turin are among those illusive elements that give our existence a little color by teasing us with the questions they raise.
Besides, who are we to think we have the capability of boxing up and labeling each of history’s perplexing conundrums? So when you read the announcement that Mona Lisa has been categorized and filed, be skeptical. There’s a reason that smile has been labeled mystic.