Two mysteries solved !

The newspaper offered fascinating revelations today about two famous historical figures and two mysteries apparently solved.

The first relates to the inspiration for this street artist in Paris. It's one of the most famous faces in the world, the woman with the beguiling smile. We know her, of course, as Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. For 500 years, her true identity has been cloaked in mystery and speculation. Who, in fact, was this woman?

Well, German scholars from the University of Heidelberg now seem to have proof that she was indeed Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a rich merchant from Florence, Francesco del Giocondo. It turns out that her married name, Lisa del Giocondo, more popularly expressed as La Gioconda, is correct.

A manuscript expert recently discovered some notes made by a Florentine city official who knew Leonardo Da Vinci. In the notes, the official makes reference to three works the great artist was completing at the time, one of which was a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo. Art experts, who have matched the dates of the painting and the comments, say this is a real breakthrough.
It seems certain to end the speculation about her identity once and for all.

You can read the Reuters account here.
If you prefer, you can see the description of the painting in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The second revelation relates to a famous navigator and an unpleasant disease. The disease is syphilis, probably the best-known of the venereal diseases. Ever since the first European outbreak in the late 1490s, people have debated over the origins of the malady. Where did it come from?

The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that medical experts in North America now believe they have solved the mystery. Scientists say they have genetic evidence that points directly to Christopher Columbus. The researchers say Columbus and his men mingled with natives of the Americas and brought a bacterial strain back to Europe. Unfortunately, that strain later killed millions of people over the years.

The newspaper reports that a team of Canadian doctors treating the poor in Guyana scraped a tissue sample from the sores of children in the jungle and found a genetic link to the band of explorers. The children are relatives of the native people Columbus met on his voyages. The Globe says scientists "...believe syphilis to be the tragic story of a New World bug transformed by sexual contact with Old World men."

The bacteria was brought back on the explorer's ships. In Europe, a plague first broke out among French troops when they invaded Naples in 1494. It's estimated that before antibiotics finally made the disease a curable one, it had killed about five million people.

You can read the fascinating account of the syphilis mystery and Christopher Columbus in the Globe article here.

Thanks to Valentina Jori for making her photograph of the street artist available for use on the stock.xchng.

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