Between 1503 and 1506, Leonardo da Vinci painted his portrait of a noblewoman of enigmatic features, both sensual and at the same time maternal.
The painting remained with him until the end of his days, eternally unfinished.
For years the debate around the mysterious identity of the Gioconda has perplexed academics and biographers and fed the imagination of writers and filmmakers: Could the lady in the painting perhaps be a self-portrait of Leonardo, an imaginary figure, Caterina Sforza, Isabella d’Aragona or the artists’ mother?

In the middle of the XVI century, Vasari identified the woman in the painting as Monna Lisa Gherardini (1479-1542), daughter of Anton Maria di Noldo Gherardini and wife of Francesco del Giocondo, from where the present name of the painting, The Gioconda, is derived.
In 2005, five hundred years after the portrait was painted, Vasari’s theory was confirmed by a discovery made by German librarian Armin Schlechter*.

Armin Schlecter

*In 2005 Armin Schlechter discovered, in the Library of Heidelberg, an ancient text containing Cicerone’s ‘Letters to Friends’, printed in 1477 and owned by Florentine city official Agostino Vespucci.
Schlechter managed to decipher an interesting marginal note on a page of this incunabulum, in which Vespucci makes reference to three of Leonardo’s works, one of them being “the portrait of Lisa del Giocondo”.
The presence of this name and the date of the note, October 1503, validated Vasari’s assumption, proving that the woman in the portrait is actually Lisa Gherardini.

Sources therefore confirm that it was actually the Gherardini family who built the Vignamaggio Villa in the XIV century.
A local legend has it that Lisa Gherardini spent a lot of time at Vignamaggio, the home of her cousins, the Gherardis, who owned the villa from 1421.
We like to imagine Lisa wondering around these gardens, hiding in the tall grass and in the wheat fields or reading at the fireside, while snow settled on the hills outside.