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MONTEFELTRO, Italy — Italian researchers claim to have found the location of the background in Leonardo da Vinci's famous Mona Lisa.
The location has long been elusive to historians, but Olivia Nesci, a geomorphologist at the University of Urbino, and Rosetta Borchia, an artist-photographer, believe by mapping out different parts of the landscape, they have found the real place.
Nesci told The Australian the two had been studying the paintings of Early Renaissance master Piero della Francesca when they noticed a patch of landscape that reminded them of the Mona Lisa.
There was a confluence of rivers. It seemed to be the one in the painting so we started our study," Nesci said. "We are convinced that this is the landscape."
The painting was acquired by King Francis I of France and is the property of the French Republic, on display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
The Mona Lisa's ambiguous expression and the painting's composition, unique for the time, has led the painting to become a focus of the fascination of many.
Nesci and Borchia said they identified the confluence of the two rivers in the painting as the joining of the Senatello and Marecchia rivers in the former Duchy of Urbino, a historic region of northern Italy. They divided the background into six parts and examined the elements of each.
"The lake is not there any more. Instead there is a depression filled with landslides," Nesci said. "The bridge is not there because it was destroyed, but we know that there was one there. The mountain by her head is Monte Aquilone. The hills beside the road are Sassi Simone and Sassi Simoncello."
Nesci and Borchia are not the first to claim to have solved the mystery of the Mona Lisa's background. In 2011, Carla Glori, an artist, claimed that clues Da Vinci left in the painting could identify the location.
Glori said the three-arch bridge in the painting is a reference to Bobbio, a village in northern Italy. She formed her theory in part based off of research by Silvano Vinceti, who discovered the numbers seven and two concealed in the bridge. Glori said the numbers are a reference to 1472, the year a flood destroyed the bridge.
Many historians are hesitant to try to identify the background, though, saying Da Vinci likely painted it based on his own imagination and not a specific location.