Drone photos and historical documents suggest that Leonardo da Vinci based the bridge that appears in the backdrop of the Mona Lisa on a very real bridge located in the Italian province of Arezzo.
The Mona Lisa contains many mysteries. But one, at least, has apparently just been solved. An Italian historian claims he has identified the bridge that appears in the background of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting as the Romito di Laterina bridge in the province of Arezzo.
“We have all the elements that point to this being the bridge portrayed in the Mona Lisa,” Italian historian Silvano Vinceti told the Telegraph.
According to The Guardian, Vinceti used historical documents and drone images to make his determination. The Romito di Laterina bridge has just one arch today, but Vinceti found that it would have fit the span of the river with four arches, just like in the painting. That makes it a better fit for the Mona Lisa than other bridges that have been proposed in the past.
“The bridge in the painting is neither the one at Bobbio nor Buriano,” Vinceti said according to the Telegraph, referencing other bridges that have been linked to the painting before, both of which have more than four arches. “We’re convinced instead that it is the one at Laterina.”
Vinceti, who has written a number of books on da Vinci, also poured over historical documents to determine that the painter spent time near Arezzo.
During that time, Tuscany was controlled by the Medici family, a powerful Italian banking dynasty. Based on documents belonging to the Medici family that Vinceti found in Florence’s archives, the Romito di Laterina bridge was “a very busy, functioning bridge” between 1501 and 1503. Significantly, da Vinci is believed to have started creating the Mona Lisa around 1503.
What’s more, da Vinci spent time in Florence and was even living near Laterina around that time. Back then, the Romito di Laterina bridge acted as a shortcut between Arezzo, Florence, and Fiesole, cutting travelers’ journeys down by several hours.
“We know he traveled through this part of Tuscany in the early 1500s – there is no doubt about that,” Vinceti explained according to the Telegraph.
The historian also drew a connection between the landscape that appears in the painting and the landscape surrounding the bridge. The curve of the river in the painting appears to match the curve of the river Arno, and the steep cliffs that appear on the left-hand side of the painting are similar to cliffs found just ten miles from the Romito di Laterina bridge.
“The distinctive form of the Arno along that stretch of territory corresponds to what Leonardo portrayed in the landscape to the left of the noblewoman depicted in the famous painting,” Vinceti said.
He further brushed aside suggestions that da Vinci had merely made the bridge up, adding: “[da Vinci] was well known for drawing very realistically. The bridge is real. It was not conjured from his imagination.”
That’s good news for the town of Laterina where the bridge is located. Its 3,500 residents are thrilled to be associated with the Mona Lisa.
“We need to try to protect what’s left of the bridge, which will require funding,” the town’s mayor, Simona Neri, told The Guardian. To the Telegraph she added: “We need to make sure the remaining arch is protected. It lies between two dams and at certain times of [the] year there are very big flows of water on that stretch of the river.”
There are plans in place for a hiking trail and bike route near the bridge — as well as some good-natured gloating. Two other villages nearby have laid claim to the Mona Lisa bridge, including Buriano, which has erected a poster of the Mona Lisa near a sign leading to its bridge.
“There’ll be some rivalry,” Neri joked to The Guardian. “We’ll need to put a poster up, too.”
After reading about the bridge in the backdrop of the Mona Lisa painting, go inside the study that sought to determine whether or not the woman portrayed in the Mona Lisa is smiling. Or, look through these innovative Leonardo da Vinci inventions that changed history.