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December 4, 2014

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Mona Lisa a Chinese slave, says historian

AN Italian historian’s theory that Mona Lisa might be a Chinese slave and Leonardo da Vinci’s mother — making the 15th-century polymath half-Chinese — sent online commentators into a frenzy yesterday.

Angelo Paratico, a Hong Kong-based historian and novelist from Italy, told the South China Morning Post that the painting had a Chinese landscape and even the Mona Lisa’s face “looks Chinese.”

Chinese Internet users expressed astonishment and disbelief yesterday, posting dozens of parodies of the painting, with faces from Chinese comedians to British actor Rowan Atkinson grafted over her delicate features.

Little is known about Caterina, the mother of the artist, writer, mathematician and inventor, and the identity of the sitter for the portrait hanging in the Louvre in Paris has long been a matter of debate.

Paratico, who is finishing a book titled “Leonardo da Vinci: a Chinese scholar lost in Renaissance Italy,” cited Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud’s 1910 assumption that the painting was inspired by the artist’s mother.

“One wealthy client of Leonardo’s father had a slave called Caterina. After 1452, Leonardo’s date of birth, she disappeared from the documents,” he told the paper.

The evidence for a Chinese connection appears to be slight, with Paratico saying he was sure “up to a point” that da Vinci’s mother was from the Orient. “To make her an oriental Chinese, we need to use a deductive method,” he added.

Many online posters were incredulous.

“I’m so sad that you thought I’m a foreigner!” wrote one, with an image of a frowning Mona Lisa holding two rolls of toilet paper and blowing her nose.

“I’d rather be from wherever I am loved.”

Another user replaced her features with unlikely faces ranging from Chinese male comedian Zhao Benshan to a grimacing robot holding a Mona Lisa mask.

The topic had been viewed more than 14.6 million times and triggered 19,000 postings by last night.

“I now understand why her smile looks so mysterious and concealed — it’s typically Chinese,” another said.


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