Has This Historian Identified the Bridge in the ‘Mona Lisa’?

Silvano Vinceti argues that the bridge in the backdrop of da Vinci’s masterpiece is the Ponte Romito in Laterina

Mona Lisa
The bridge depicted in the backdrop of the Mona Lisa has been a subject of debate for many years. Public domain

At the Louvre in Paris, visitors often wonder who the mysterious woman in the Mona Lisa is—but they don’t always ask where she is.

Often captivated by the figure’s smile, art-lovers may miss the small bridge located in the soft background above her left shoulder. Now, Italian art historian Silvano Vinceti argues that Leonardo da Vinci painted the Ponte Romito bridge, located in the Tuscan village of Laterina.

Today, the Romito is missing all but one arch. At a press conference last week, Vinceti presented a virtual reconstruction of the bridge based on drone footage and historical documents, saying that the Romito is “unmistakably” the source for the bridge in the painting, per CNN’s Barbie Nadeau and Jack Guy.

In the past, other bridges have been linked to the Mona Lisa, including Ponte Buriano, which is near the Romito, and Ponte Bobbio, located in the province of Piacenza. But Vinceti argues that these bridges have too many arches; the Romito, like the bridge in the painting, once had four. Vinceti also thinks that the landscape around the bridge matches the Mona Lisa backdrop.

“The distinctive form of the Arno [River] along that stretch of territory corresponds to what Leonardo portrayed in the landscape to the left of the woman depicted in the famous painting,” Vinceti said at the press conference.

What’s more, records show that da Vinci was in the Laterina area around the time when he began the painting in the early 16th century.

Close-up of bridge in Mona Lisa
Like the bridge in the Mona Lisa, the Ponte Romito once had four arches. Public domain

Still, some art historians argue that da Vinci never intended to faithfully portray any particular bridge. “Leonardo was an acute observer of nature, but he did not ‘copy’ nature in his works,” says Francesca Fiorani, an art historian at the University of Virginia, to Hyperallergic’s Rhea Nayyar. “[The bridge] is inspired by the many rivers that crossed the Arno in the Tuscan countryside, but it does not represent any of them specifically.”

In any case, Vinceti’s findings may be enough to attract future visitors to the small town of 3,500 people.

“We really hope that this wonderful news will intrigue and fascinate local and foreign tourists,” said Simona Neri, the mayor of Laterina, at the press conference. “It will be a great opportunity to relaunch the tourism of our territory.” She also said that a bike path is being built that will pass by the Romito, reports the Guardian’s Angela Giuffrida.

Other villages already advertise that they are home to the Mona Lisa bridge. Ponte Buriano, for example, even claims the connection on its welcome sign, per CNN.

“There’ll be some rivalry,” said Neri. “We’ll need to put a poster up, too.”

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.