Other villages have made similar claims in the past, but Vinceti says he has modern proof. His evidence is that a virtual reconstruction of the bridge – which today lies in ruins – reveals it once had four complete arches, matching the bridge shown in the painting. Further, Vinceti asserts the landscape behind the Mona Lisa resembles the Ponte Romito area and that Florentine historical records show da Vinci was in the region around the same time he began to paint the Mona Lisa.
But Fiorani says these claims have no merit.
“It’s very tempting for us to think of these landscapes as snapshots [of nature],” Fiorani said. And that is exactly what these villages, alongside a majority of viewers, have assumed with the Mona Lisa – that it depicts a mystery woman, with a mysterious background behind her, containing secrets that can be solved.
Fiorani contends da Vinci did not paint any specific, real bridge. It’s something he just imagined as part of the background.
To come to that conclusion, she says, it’s critical for historians to know what kind of artist da Vinci was, and how he differed from other painters. Fiorani is a long-time student of da Vinci’s work and has published multiple books on the subject, including “The Shadow Drawing: How Science Taught Leonardo da Vinci How to Paint” and “Leonardo da Vinci and Optics: Theory and Pictorial Practice.” She is also the director of the digital project Leonardo da Vinci and His Treatise on Painting, housed at UVA’s Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities.