Was Mona Lisa Chinese? Italian’s theory raises eyebrows

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 - has sent online commentators into a frenzy. Chinese web users expressed astonishment and disbelief Wednesday, 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 Paris’ Louvre museum has long been a matter of debate.

On the back of Mona Lisa, there is a Chinese landscape and even her face looks Chinese.

Historian Angelo Paratico

Angelo Paratico, who is finishing a book entitled 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.

I now understand why her smile looks so mysterious and concealed — it’s typically Chinese

A poster on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo