Archive for 2011-09-18

Who is mona lisa ??

The most famous portrait painting in the world can be found in the Louvre museum under the name "Mona Lisa". Have you ever wondered which of the many claims concerning its origin are speculations without proof, and which are facts supported by historical sources? During the research for my book "Who is Mona Lisa? In search for her identity" and further investigations within the three university libraries of Adelaide, South Australia, I realized that many assumptions regarding the "Mona Lisa" have simply been sold as historical truths for over a hundred years. Critical research on this painting has become a rarity. Even the academic world is stuck with repeating all the claims of the past, following the slogan, "if so many academics have said it before, it cannot be wrong". Careful library research, however, shows that the answer to the question, "Who is Mona Lisa?", could have been answered a long time ago. A bit of public education is therefore urgently needed.

Speculation 1:

The lady depicted in the famous portrait painting of Leonardo da Vinci is Mona Lisa, the wife of the Florentine silk merchant Francesco di Bartolomeo di Zanobi del Giocondo.
This claim by the art historian Frank Zoellner is mere speculation for which no supporting evidence can be found. Nevertheless, it is stated by many art historians as a historical fact.

Fig. 1: Sofonisba Anguisciola
As with so many paintings and drawings (over 95%) that originate from the Renaissance, this particular work of art is neither signed nor dated nor is it mentioning the person who is depicted. But we can be very certain that the original of this masterpiece was created by the Florentine painter and universal genius Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). However, the date of its creation and the person that it depicts remain a mystery. Leonardo's numerous notebooks are filled with hundreds of his ideas, his mathematical formulas and computations, his sketches of technical innovations, his drawings of heads, limbs, animals and plants, and even his household costs, but only very few truly personal entries.
The primary tool of art historians, the history of stylistic art (in German: Stilgeschichte or Bildgenese), is also not suited for determining: 1. who is depicted on a portrait from the 15th and 16th century; and 2. when exactly this portrait was painted. Consequently, the works of so-called pioneers of a particular style and of good imitators are often dated incorrectly. When it comes to the attribution of paintings to painters, therefore major mistakes have been made by art historians. As a case in point, the works of the greatest female painter of the Renaissance, Sofonisba Anguisciola (1532-1630) (Fig. 1) were – until 1995 – attributed to her male colleagues such as Leonardo da Vinci, Tizian, Coello, Moroni, Tintoretto, Bassano, Salviati, Bronzino, Carracci, Zurbarán, Murillo, Sustermans and van Dyck. In 1995 this was corrected, when the Art Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum) in Vienna exhibited her paintings for the first time under her name to the public.

Fig. 2: Leonardo da Vinci (self-portrait)
Likewise happened to Leonardo da Vinci, whose works were erroneously attributed to students of his such as Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (1467-1516) or later Italian artists such as Cariani (1480/90-1547). Unlike Sofonisba Anguisciola, however, these mistakes have yet to be corrected. For instance, Leonardo's self-portrait (Fig. 2), which can be seen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, is still attributed to Cariani, even though the fashion of the depicted person is typical for the 70's and 80's of the 15th century, as any expert can confirm. Cariani was probably not even born at that time!
Around 1483 the great Milanese court painter Leonardo da Vinci was instructed to depict the 14-year-old Duke of Milan, Gian Galeazzo II. Maria Sforza, as his favourite saint, Saint Sebastian (Fig. 3, Fig. 4). The portrait of Fig. 3 that was produced by Leonardo da Vinci is nowadays attributed to his student Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, who was only 16 at that time. Furthermore, Giovanni became a student at Leonardo's workshop in 1491, 8 years subsequent to the conception of the painting. The portrait of Fig. 4 is attributed to Leonardo's colleague Ambrogio de Predis, but is probably a collaboration of Ambrogio de Predis and Leonardo da Vinci. When will such evident mistakes by the art historians finally be corrected?

Fig. 3: Gian Galeazzo II. Maria Sforza as Saint Sebastian, painted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1483

Fig. 4: Gian Galeazzo II. Maria Sforza painted by Leonardo da Vinci and Ambrogio de Predis, c. 1483

Abb. 5: Gian Galeazzo II. Maria Sforza's son Francesco il Duchetto, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1499-1512
Reading suggestions:
  • Maike Vogt-Luerssen: Sofonisba Anguisciola (in German only!) and Images (in German only!)
  • Maike Vogt-Luerssen: New self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci

Historical Fact No. 1:

Leonardo da Vinci made a portrait-drawing of a woman with the name Mona Lisa.
Frank Zoellner and also Giuseppe Pallanti made a big mistake in their search for this woman, because they merged the biographies of two cousins with the same name, "Francesco del Giocondo", into one. One of these Francesco del Giocondos was born as the youngest son of a certain Bartolomeo del Giocondo on 19 March 1465. He died in 1538. On 5 March 1495 he married a certain Lisa Gherardini who was the daughter of the Florentine Antonio Maria di Noldo Gherardini and was born in the Via Maggio in Florence in 1479. According to Pallanti she was his second and according to Zoellner his third wife. By his first wife, a certain Camilla Rucellai, who died in 1494, Francesco del Giocondo had already a son who was called Bartolomeo after his paternal grandfather as it was tradition in the Renaissance. According to the last will of Francesco del Giocondo which was drawn up in Florence on the 29 June 1537 and the information of Giuseppe Pallanti, Lisa Gherardini gave birth to at least five children, the sons Pietro, Andrea and Giocondo, and two daughters: Camilla, who died in the year 1518 as "Sister Beatrice" in the convent San Domenico di Cafaggio, and a daughter who lived as a nun under the name "Sister Ludovica" in the convent of Sant'Orsola in 1537 and died in the year 1579. According to Pallanti the last existing reference to Lisa Gherardini was made in 1539, and according to Zoellner she died after 1551.
Over many years we were told again and again by Frank Zoellner and his friends, that Lisa Gherardini was the "Mona Lisa" of whom the great master Leonardo da Vinci had made a portrait-drawing. But a contemporary historical source from the year 1503, which was found by Armin Schlechter and published world-wide by Veit Probst, shows that Lisa Gherardini is NOT the "Mona Lisa". Please, read very carefully the content of this important historical source: "Apelles pictor. Ita Leonardus Vincius facit in omnibus suis picturis, ut enim caput Lise del Giocondo et Anne matris virginis. Videbimus, quid faciet de aula magni consilii, de qua re convenit iam cum vexillifero. 1503 Octobris." (= The painter Apelles. In this way Leonardo da Vinci makes it in all his paintings for example the head of Lisa del Giocondo and of Anne, the mother of the Virgin. We will see what he is going to do with regard to the great hall of the Council about which he has just agreed with the Gonfaloniere.)
According to this contemporary historical source, Leonardo's Mona Lisa was not Lisa Gherardini, but a certain Lisa del Giocondo! This big mistake done by Frank Zoellner, Giuseppe Pallanti and Veit Probst shows how important it is to have enough knowledge about the Middle Ages and the Renaissance when making historical claims. It was not until Protestantism gained widespread acceptance in the second half of the 16th century, that women in the Protestant states in Europe finally lost the last piece of their own identity, their own surname, when they became married. From now on they had to assume the surnames of their husbands. In the Catholic states like Belgium and Spain the women never had to change their surname. In Italy the change of the surname was introduced as recently as the 70s of the 20th century (Art. 143 bis Cognome della moglie: La moglie aggiunge al proprio cognome quello del marito e lo conserva durante lo stato vedovile, fino a che passi a nuove nozze). But in all important documents like the passport or the driver license the Italian women still have to use their own surnames and not the surnames of their husbands.
There was not one single woman in the first half of the 16th century, living in Europe who lost her own surname, which she had since her birth, because of becoming married. Lisa Gherardini, too, did not give up her own surname when she became married to Francesco del Giocondo. Her own surname was part of her identity. Even as wife of Francesco del Giocondo her full name was always Lisa Gherardini and never Lisa del Giocondo. Therefore, who is "Lisa del Giocondo"? We can find the answer in a family tree which is depicted in Giuseppe Pallanti's book "Mona Lisa Revealed – The True Identity of Leonardo's Model, Milan 2006". According to this historical source "Lisa del Giocondo" was a sister of the above mentioned Francesco del Giocondo and therefore also a sister-in-law of Lisa Gherardini. She was born in 1468 and was already 35 years old, when Leonardo da Vinci made the drawing of her. Because of her age she can be ruled out as the candidate for the woman at the Louvre. She was presumably married to her cousin of the second degree, "Francesco del Giocondo", also a silk merchant, who can be found also as "Piero Francesco del Giocondo" or "Pierfrancesco del Giocondo" in the contemporary historical sources of the first half of the 16th century. This "Francesco del Giocondo" was born in 1460 and died in 1512 (according to Jean Richter) or in 1528 (according to Zoellner). Through the research work of Pallanti and Zöllner we know that Lisa del Giocondo gave birth at least to two daughters, one daughter, of whom we do not know the name and who died in June 1499, and another daughter called Marietta, and one son Piero: "... and the following year, 1496, she gave birth to a son who was called Piero after his paternal grandfather" (in: Giuseppe Pallanti: "Mona Lisa Revealed – The True Identity of Leonardo's Model, Milan 2006, page 60). Therefore we also know the name of the father of this second "Francesco del Giocondo": it was Piero del Giocondo who could have been a legitimate or an illegitimate son of Paolo del Giocondo.
Conclusion: Giorgio Vasari made no mistake. He described in his famous book not the portrait of the renowned lady at the Louvre, Isabella von Aragon, but the portrait of the Florentine merchant's wife Lisa del Giocondo, which is only a drawing of a head, probably without hair. There is a great chance, that this drawing is still in the Louvre, in one of its many storage rooms. It is not attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, but to a wrong painter by the art historians. Even today there are many works of Leonardo da Vinci, which are attributed to his favourite student Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, his friend Raphael and his colleagues Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cariani.
Reading suggestion:
  • Donald Sassoon: Mona Lisa – The History of the World’s most famous Painting. London 2001 – However his new book "Leonardo and the Mona Lisa Story: The History of a Painting Told in Pictures" (published in 2006) is very disappointing! Mr. Sassoon has no knowledge about the history of the Renaissance and the emblems and symbols of the high nobility of this interesting epoch. Therefore we could have expected that he would try to fill his big gap in historial knowledge, before he would publish a new book about his favourite subject "Mona Lisa". But he didn't!

Historical Fact No. 2:

In 1503 a portrait drawing of Mona Lisa was created by Leonardo da Vinci, who – as Macchiavelli stated – was regarded the best painter in Italy.
Fig. 6: Giorgio Vasari, ca. 1566-68
We know this from the eminent manuscript of the painter and biographer Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574): "Lives of Seventy of the most eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects (of the Renaissance)", which was first published in Florence in 1550. A second, improved edition followed in 1568. Giorgio Vasari (Fig. 6), who never knew Leonardo da Vinci in person, visited Francesco Melzi in Milan to get first-hand information about the great painter and his works.
About the drawing of the Mona Lisa, which he presumably saw at Francesco Melzi or from whom he received first-hand information, he writes the following: "For Francesco del Giocondo, Leonardo undertook to paint the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife, but, after loitering over it for four years, he finally left it unfinished. This work is now in the possession of King Francis of France, and is at Fontainebleau. Whoever shall desire to see how far art can imitate nature, may do so to perfection in this head, wherein every peculiarity that could be depicted by the utmost subtlety of the pencil has been faithfully reproduced. The eyes have the lustrous brightness and moisture which is seen in life, and around them are those pale, red, and slightly livid circles, also proper to nature, with the lashes, which can only be copied, as these are, with the greatest difficulty; the eyebrows also are represented with the closest exactitude, where fuller and where more thinly set, with the separate hairs delineated as they issue from the skin, every turn being followed, and all the pores exhibited in a manner that could not be more natural than it is: the nose, with its beautiful and delicately roseate nostrils, might be easily believed to be alive; the mouth, admirable in its outline, has the lips uniting the rose-tints of their colour with that of the face, in the utmost perfection, and the carnation of the cheek does not appear to be painted, but truly of flesh and blood: he who looks earnestly at the pit of the throat cannot but believe that he sees the beating of the pulses, and it may be truly said that this work is painted in a manner well calculated to make the boldest master tremble, and astonishes all who behold it, however well accustomed to the marvels of art. Mona Lisa was exceedingly beautiful, and while Leonardo was painting her portrait, he took the precaution of keeping someone constantly near her, to sing or play on instruments, or to jest and otherwise amuse her, to the end that she might continue cheerful, and so that her face might not exhibit the melancholy expression often imparted by painters to the likenesses they take. In this portrait of Leonardo’s, on the contrary, there is so pleasing an expression, and a smile so sweet, that while looking at it one thinks it rather divine than human, and it has ever been esteemed a wonderful work, since life itself could exhibit no other appearance." (in: Giorgio Vasari: Lives of Seventy of the most eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects. Edited and annotated in the light of recent discoveries by E.H. and E. W. Blashfield and A.A. Hopkins. London 1897, pages 395-397).
If you compare the statements by Vasari on Mona Lisa's face with the actual face of the "Mona Lisa" in the Louvre, you will find no similarities other than that lovely smile which is actually exhibited by most of the female faces drawn by Leonardo. The "Mona Lisa" in the Louvre is missing the eyebrows, the lashes and the rosy nose openings, and Leonardo also does not seem to have afforded much care for the throat-pit.
Fig. 7: The Adoration of the Magi
Moreover, Vasari describes the portrait of Mona Lisa as "unfinished" in 1568, that is, the drawing was never turned into a complete oil painting. In this instance the art historians of today accuse Vasari of not being well informed. They have no sources to support this, however. Vasari also describes another very famous work of the great master, "The Adoration of the Magi", as "unfinished", and everyone can see that in this case he is correct (Fig. 7). Vasari writes: "A picture representing the Adoration of the Magi was likewise commenced by Leonardo, and is among the best of his works, more especially as regards the heads; it was in the house of Amerigo Benci, opposite the Loggia of the Peruzzi, but like so many of the other works of Leonardo, this also remained unfinished." (in: Giorgio Vasari, ditto, page 382).
How the Mona Lisa drawing might have looked like is indicated by another portrait drawing which Leonardo da Vinci made of Lucrezia Borgia in 1498 (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8: Lucrezia Borgia drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in 1498

Fig. 9: The "Mona Lisa" at the Louvre is shown in the second phase of a mourning period
The motivation of Francesco del Giocondo (1460-1528) behind his request for portraits of himself and his wife Lisa del Giocondo from the great master is unknown. But nonetheless we can expect that Lisa del Giocondo was depicted wearing the most valuable and colourful silk materials of her husband. In contrast, the lady that carries her name in the Louvre is in the second phase of mourning. She has already removed the deep black that had to be worn for six months after the death of a close relative, but she still shows herself in the modest colours brown, beige, and dark green, and without any jewelry (Fig. 9).
  • Giorgio Vasari: Lives of Seventy of the most eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects. Edited and annotated in the light of recent discoveris by E.H. and E. W. Blashfield and A.A. Hopkins. London 1897 (personally I think this is the best edition of Giorgio Vasari's work)
  • Giorgio Vasari: Lebensgeschichten der berühmtesten Maler, Bildhauer und Architekten der Renaissance, Zürich 1980 (shortened edition)

Speculation No. 2:

Leonardo's father, Ser Piero da Vinci, took the role as intercessor for the silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, so that the latter could have a portrait of his wife and of himself made by the greatest painter of his time.
Without Ser Piero da Vinci the drawing of Mona Lisa and presumably also a drawing of the silk merchant – it was common in the Renaissance that couples were drawn in two individual portraits – would have never been produced by Leonardo da Vinci. Indeed, according to the statements of a certain Anonimo Gaddiano only a portrait of Francesco del Giocondo was made. This contemporary of the great painter did not know anything about a portrait of the silk merchant's wife.
Leonardo da Vinci painted only few portraits outside his own family after 1500. Thus, a lot speaks in favour of speculation no. 2 being in fact the truth. Ser Piero da Vinci knew the silk merchant and his brother for many years, because he was a notary for both. However, when Leonardo's father deceased in the year 1504 at the age of 75 years, there was nobody who could force the great master to complete the portrait of Mona Lisa. Hence it remained unfinished, as contemporaries have reported it.

Historical Fact No. 3:

The portrait drawing of Mona Lisa became a property of the French kings between 1524 to 1547.
Subsequent to the completion of the drawing of Mona Lisa in the year 1503, no source mentions it for another 21 years. We do not know whether Leonardo da Vinci took this drawing to France around 1517. In the travel diary of Antonio de' Beatis, the secretary of the cardinal Louis d'Aragona, who visited Leonardo da Vinci together with his master on the 10th of October 1517 in Cloux, only three pictures are mentioned: "one of a certain Florentine lady, painted from life, at the instance of the late Lord Giuliano de’Medici; the other the youthful St John the Baptist; the third of the Madonna and the Child in the lap of St. Anne, the most perfect of them all." (in: Ludwig Goldscheider: Leonardo da Vinci. London and New York 19442, S. 20 und in: L. Beltrami, op.cit., S. 149 in: Luca: Documenti e Memorie riguardanti la vita e le Opere di Leonardo da Vinci, Mailand 1919).

Fig. 10: Saint Mary with the Child Jesus Christ is sitting on the lap of Saint Anne
Whereas Leonardo da Vinci's masterpieces "The Madonna and the Child in the lap of St. Anne" (Fig. 10) und "St. John the Baptist" (Fig. 11) can be easily identified among these works, the comment by Beatis that the third painting is a portrait of a Florentine lady, painted on the explicit order of Giuliano de'Medici, is not particularly helpful. It could be either Pacifica Brandano, with whom Giulianao de'Medici had one illegitimate Sohn Ippolito, or a certain Isabella Gualanda.
Abb. 11:Saint John the Baptist
This latter painting was purchased by the French king Francis I. on the 2nd of May 1519 for 4000 gold crowns. Before Francesco Melzi, the principal inheritor of the great master (most likely also his son), left France, the French king purchased another work by Leonardo da Vinci from him for another 4000 gold crowns. In this case, we do not know which painting it was. But it certainly was not "The Madonna and the Child in the lap of St. Anne", "St. John the Baptist" or the portrait drawing of Mona Lisa.
"The Madonna and the Child in the lap of St. Anne" and "St. John the Baptist" would only make it into the possession of the French kings Louis XIII. and Louis XIV. in the years 1636 and 1661, respectively. In addition, the portrait drawing of Mona Lisa remained in the possession of Salaì after the death of Leonardo da Vinci. Contemporary sources lead to the only conclusion that this latter individual was also a close relative of the great master, possibly an illegitimate half-brother.
When Salaì died in January 1524, the portrait drawing of Mona Lisa was mentioned as in his possession in a judicial inventory list. It was inherited by one of his two full- or half-sisters, Angelina and Lorenziola Caprotti, who sold it to Francesco Melzi. Through him the drawing ultimately ended up in France, like many works of the great master. It is very likely, that the portrait drawing of Mona Lisa can be found in one of the many French archives that store pictures and drawings not on display, and is waiting for its rediscovery!
Please read the excellent work by the art historians Janice Shell und Grazioso Sironi: Salaì and Leonardo’s legacy, in: The Burlington Magazine, February 1991, pages 95-108
Further reading suggestions:
  • R. J. Knecht: Renaissance Warrior and Patron – The Reign of Francis I. Cambridge 1994
  • Robert Payne: Leonardo. London 1978

Historical Fact No. 4:

The lady that is now seen in the Louvre under the name "Mona Lisa" was first mentioned under this title in the inventory list of the French king Louis XIII. in the year 1625.
We do not know when this painting of Leonardo da Vinci, which is now seen by countless visitors at the Louvre under the title "Mona Lisa", came into the possession of the French kings. In the year 1625 it was already in Fontainebleau, where a certain Cassiano dal Pozzo had to make an inventory list about the paintings of his royal master and gave this female portrait the title "Gioconda" for the first time. A colleague of the latter, however, who was assigned to the same job, chose the title "courtesan" for this portrait. Thus, by 1625 all the knowledge about this lady must have already been lost, because these two men were able to make up a title for this portrait. It appears at that time that the title "Gioconda" was yet not universally accepted for this portrait.
Ultimately the French collector of art and dealer in old master prints, Pierre-Jean Mariette (1694-1774), who was regarded as the art authority of his time, was responsible for the unfortunate mistake of seeing the merchant's wife "Mona Lisa" in the portrait-painting of the Milanese Duchess Isabella of Aragon. He knew that the portrait of the Florentine merchant's wife was left incomplete – it was a drawing, not a painting. Nevertheless he declared the oil-painting of the Milanese Duchess as the drawing of Mona Lisa by claiming that the contemporaries of Leonardo da Vinci described the painting as "unfinished", but he could see (by looking at the oil-painting of the Milanese Duchess) that it was "carried to so high a degree of finish, that it was impossible to surpass it." None of his contemporaries had the courage to criticize him or to point out his mistake, because he was the authority! Through the continued reiteration of Pierre-Jean Mariette's statement, the Milanese Duchess Isabella of Aragon became the Florentine merchant's wife Mona Lisa. It is a great pity that mistakes, errors, gossips and lies, once they have been accepted by us, are so persistent and hard to eliminate, because people look up to these so-called authorities and repeat their nonsense again and again.
Under the French king Louis XIV. we can find Leondardo da Vinci's masterpiece in the king's favourite palace Versailles. Subsequent to the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century the Louvre became the new home of the now so-called "Mona Lisa". Then she was removed on the order of the French emperor Napoleon, as he wanted to decorate the wall of his bedroom with the enchanting smile of this beautiful stranger. After Napoleon's banishment to Helena "Mona Lisa" returned to the Louvre, where she could be seen without intermission until 1911.

Fig. 12: The "Mona Lisa" of the Vernon Collection is still showing the columns
Under Napoleon Leonardo's masterpiece had been reduced by about 10 cm on both the left and right side to fit it into a special and expensive frame. Thereby the columns on the left and right side got lost (in: Richard Friedenthal: Leonardo da Vinci, London 1959, p. 109) (Fig. 12). After that the measurements were 77 x 53 cm. In 2005 a team of 39 international experts proved that the painting, which we now find at the Louvre, has not been trimmed. Where is the version of "Mona Lisa", which had been trimmed and which decorated Napoleon's bedroom?
On the 21st of August 1911 the "Mona Lisa" finally made big news, when she was stolen from the Louvre during daylight among hundreds of visitors. The thief was a certain Vincenzo Peruggia, an insignificant varnisher or house painter. For two years he kept the masterpiece in his attic in Paris, until – in 1913 – he could smuggle it in a container, hidden among pieces of clothing and equipment, into Italy. When he tried to sell the painting to the antiquities and art dealer Alfredo Geri in Florence, he was finally apprehended. In court he declared that he only wanted to bring this Italian masterpiece back to its true home, Italy. For the theft he received a 12-month prison term. "Mona Lisa" returned to the Louvre in a big state ceremony in January 1914, staged by the Italian government during the handover to the French delegates.
Additionally, in 1956 Leonardo's most significant painting was assaulted twice. In the first instance the lower half of the painting was heavily damaged by acid, and in the second instance, on the 30th of December, a Bolivian visitor named Ugo Ungaza Villegas threw a stone at the portrait. These hostile attacks seemed to only benefit the popularity of the "Mona Lisa", as the masterpiece was exhibited in New York, Tokyo, and Moskow in the 1960s and 1970s. For reasons of security you can view the "Mona Lisa" only behind thick glass nowadays, but this does not deter her fans from wanting to see her.

Speculation No. 3:

The Lady at the Louvre is Pacifica Brandano or Brandani.
Since October 2009 we now have another candidate for the Lady at the Louvre. According to the Italian historian Roberto Zapperi the Mona Lisa painting depicts Pacifica Brandano or Brandani. For a number of years this woman was the mistress of Giuliano de' Medici (1479-1516) and bore him his illegitimate son, the future Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici (1511-1535). Roberto Zapperi seems to have been afraid of nobody being interested in his research with regard to Pacifica Brandano. Again, Leonardo da Vinci and "Mona Lisa" had to serve as the attraction in this case. That would be the only explanation why he makes the completely unscientific claim that the Lady at the Louvre is Pacifica Brandano. In Antonio de Beatis' travel diary we find the following entry dated 10th October 1517: "Our master went with the rest of us to one of the suburbs [of Amboise] to see Messer Leonardo Vinci of Florence, an old man of more than seventy [Leonardo was 65 years old], the most outstanding painter of our day. He showed the Cardinal [Luigi of Aragon] three pictures, one of a certain Florentine woman portrayed from life at the request of the late Magnificent Giuliano de' Medici, another of the young St. John the Baptist as a young man, and one of the Madonna and Child set in the lap of St. Anne. All three works are quite perfect, though nothing good can now be expected from his brush as he suffers from paralysis in the right hand [after a stroke in early 1516]" (in: The Travel Journal of Antonio de Beatis – Germany, Switzerland, the Low Countries, France and Italy, 1517-1518. Translated from the Italian by J.R. Hale and J.M.A. Lindon. Edited by J.R.Hale. London 1979, p. 132)
If this was the only information we had then there would have been quite a number of women whom Leonardo could have painted at the request of Giuliano de' Medici, e.g. one of his three sisters, Lucrezia, Maddalena or Contessina, or his wife Filiberta of Savoy, or one of his known mistresses, Pacifica Brandano or Isabella Gualanda. And naturally she might have been a lady who has never been mentioned in contemporary sources or of whom all information has been lost over the last 500 years. The added term "a certain Florentine" means that the lady either was born in Florence and/or lived there at Giuliano de' Medici's side. And because of that Pacifica Brandano can definitely be excluded as a candidate. For she called Urbino home and only there she was the lover of Giuliano de' Medici. Hence, neither was she a native Florentine nor did she live there by her lover's side. Finally, the answer to who that unknown lady in this specific portrait painting of Leonardo's was, which Antonio de Beatis saw on the 10th October 1517, is given by himself. On 11th October 1517 at the Castle of Blois he looks at another portrait painting of a lady from the Lombardy and compares it to the portrait painting he saw the day before, and he mentions a name: Isabella Gualanda: "There was also an oil painting from life of a certain lady of Lombardy: a beautiful woman indeed, but less so, in my opinion, than Signoria Isabella Gualanda." (in: The Travel Journal of Antonio de Beatis – Germany, Switzerland, the Low Countries, France and Italy, 1517-1518)

Historical Fact No. 5:

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance – at least until the first half of the 16th century – the aristocrats of the high and low nobility had themselves defined by their coat of arms, their emblems, their symbols, and their colours. They also decorated their portraits with these. Consequently, knowledge of the coat of arms, emblems, symbols, and colours – the tools of any historian – is the means by which persons shown on portraits of the 15th and 16th century can be identified. Members of the high nobility are very easy to identify if you are familiar with the dynasties of the Renaissance, the history of fashion, and the history of the coat of arms, emblems, symbols, and colours.
During the Middle Ages, heralds were highly regarded, as they were capable of identifying any nobleman hidden under his heavy armour by his coat of arms, which decorated their shields, the saddle-cloth of their horses, their lances, their robes and maybe also their helmets (Fig. 13 and Fig. 14).

Fig. 13: Lord Hartmann of the Aue with his coat of arms, which can be seen on his shield, his robe, the saddle-cloth of his horse, his lance and his helmet

Fig. 14: Lord Ulrich of Lichtenstein with his coat of arms, which can be seen on his shield, his robe and the saddle-cloth of his horse, and his self-chosen symbol, the "The Lady Venus", which is to be seen on his helmet
The heraldic figures, seen on the coat of arms, which became hereditary in France towards the end of the 11th century, turned into the permanent insignia of the family during the 13th century. Hence, after enduring about 7 - 8 years of schooling, heralds could attribute any coat of arms to a specific family.

Fig. 15: Isabella of Bourbon († 1465), the second wife of Duke Charles of Burgundy, with the Coat of Arms of her family, the House of Bourbon

Fig. 16: Isabella's niece, Suzanne of Bourbon († 1521), is no longer using the coat of arms of her dynasty to decorate her portrait, instead she displays one of the important emblems of the House of Bourbon and also a symbol to tell us something about her and the time when this portrait was made

Fig. 17: The headscarf of Suzanne of Bourbon shows an important emblem of her family, a chain of shells

Fig. 18: The braid of Suzanne's dress displays a mirrored C, which alternates with 2 vertical lines. These symbols have to be associated with her cousin and bridegroom Charles II. of Bourbon. Therefore her portrait was made in 1504 or 1505 at the time of her betrothal.
But by the end of the 15th century and the first half of the 16th century, only a few aristocrats of the high nobility still showed themselves on their portraits with their coat of arms. They instead preferred the application of their emblems, symbols and colours (Fig. 15, Fig. 16, Fig. 17 and Fig. 18).
Some coat of arms are still used today. For instance, the Milanese car company Alfa Romeo displays the coat of arms of the powerful Visconti(-Sforza), who ruled the duchy of Milan from the 13th to the 16th century (Fig. 19 and Fig. 20).

Fig. 19: The Milanese car manufacturer Alfa-Romeo is still using the two most important coat of arms of the Visconti, the red cross on a white background and the dragon-like green snake, which is devouring a man.

Fig. 20: The Milanese Duchess Bianca Maria Visconti († 1468) with her coat of arms, the dragon-like snake, which is devouring a man
Reading suggestion:
  • Dorothy Muir: A History of Milan under the Visconti. London 1924
  • Vogt-Luerssen, Maike: Sforza I: Bianca Maria Visconti – Die Stammmutter der Sforza. Norderstedt 2005: ISBN 3-8334-3558-5

Historical Fact No. 6:

Leonardo da Vinci used emblems or symbols of the high dynasties in his portraits to identify the depicted individual.

Historical Fact No. 7:

The "Mona Lisa" in the Louvre shows the emblems of the Milanese house of the Visconti-Sforza in the neckline of her garment.
Fig. 22: One of the emblems of the Sforza is to be seen on the upper portion of the braid of her dress. The emblem, showing the close connection of the Visconti and the Sforza, can be seen on the lower portion.
For his most famous painting, Leonardo da Vinci provides us with an important hint about who the depicted person is. We find at the braid of her green satin dress emblems that identify her as a member of the famous Milanese dynasty (Fig. 22). The chain of interlinked circles constitutes an emblem of the Sforza, while the intricate ribbons and bows were used as a insignia of the close relationship of the Visconti and their successors, the Sforza. Leonardo da Vinci also decorated the ceiling of the Milanese main palace, the Castello Sforzesco, with this emblem (Fig 23).

Fig. 23: The emblem of the Visconti-Sforza House, which was used to show the close connection of both dynasties, the Visconti and the Sforza.
There are 13 possible female candidates that belong to the ruling dynasty of the Visconti-Sforza that theoretically could have been portrayed by Leonardo da Vinci in the years 1483 to 1499. They are Bona of Savoy and her two daughters Bianca Maria and Anna Maria, Angela Sforza and her sister Ippolita, Caterina Sforza and her sister Chiara, Maddalena Sforza, Bianca Sforza, Camilla Sforza, Bona Sforza, Isabella of Aragon, and Beatrice d'Este.
Reading suggestions:
  • D.S. Chambers: Patrons and Artists in the Italian Renaissance. Columbia, South Carolina 1971
  • Michael Dummett: The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards. New York 1986
  • Richard A. Goldthwaite: Wealth and Demand for Art in Italy 1300-1600. Baltimore and London 1993
  • Millard Meiss and Edith W. Kirsch: The Visconti Hours. London 1972
  • Gertrude Moakley: The Tarot Cards painted by Bonifacio Bembo. New York 1966

Historical Fact No. 8:

Of the Milanese princesses of the 14th to 16th century only those who occupied the highest female rank in the family were permitted to have themselves depicted as the Saint Mary and the principal saint of their duchy, the Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
Since the second half of the 14th century the faces of the powerful rulers of Milan, the Visconti and the Sforza, and their family members can be seen in the images of saints in churches and cloisters within and beyond their domain of power. A strict hierarchy determined as which Saints they were allowed to be depicted. For instance, only the Milanese duchesses (or those women of the Visconti-Sforza who took up the highest ranks in the Milanese duchy) had the right to be depicted as Saint Mary with Child and as Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Of the abovementioned eleven candidates only Isabella of Aragon satisfies this requirement, and she is indeed the woman that Leonardo da Vinci would make immortal with his painting.
Please view the following web pages: Isabella von Aragon and The Visconti-Sforza

Historical Fact No. 9:

The original of the masterpiece of Leonardo da Vinci that depicts the Milanese Duchess Isabella of Aragon was produced between mid-February to late-May 1489. Isabella, who lost her mother Ippolita Maria Sforza in August 1488, displays herself in the second phase of mourning. The picture was painted in the castle of Pavia.

Historical Fact No. 10:

Leonardo da Vinci was the court painter of the Sforza for 16 or 17 years. He knew his patroness Isabella of Aragon since her marriage to Gian Galeazzo II. Maria Sforza († 1494) in 1488. As additional sources reveal, Leonardo was more than just her court painter, but a very close friend and even her husband (clandestine marriage in 1497) (Fig. 24). I would like to quote Joanne K. Rowling at this point: "It was one of those rare occasions, when the truth is more outrageous and more exiting than the wildest rumours." (in: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) Their eldest daughter Johanna (or Giovanna) (1502-1575) (Fig. 25) was a great celebrity in her time because of her beauty and her courage.

Fig. 24: Leonardo da Vinci and his great love and wife, the Duchess of Milan, Isabella of Aragon, as two apostles in his great fresco: The Last Supper

Fig. 25: Johanna (or Giovanna) (1502-1575), the eldest daughter of the Milanese Duchess Isabella of Aragon and her second husband Leonardo da Vinci, as the young wife of Ascanio Colonna, Duke of Paliano and Count of Tagliocozzo
Reading suggestions:
  • Maike Vogt-Luerssen: Wer ist Mona Lisa? – Auf der Suche nach ihrer Identität. Norderstedt 2003
  • Maike Vogt-Luerssen: Isabella of Aragon - and her Court Painter Leonardo da Vinci (in German). Norderstedt 2010
  • Video by Derri Sanchez on youtube

P.S: They (the art historians) did it again. Yesterday, 28th September 2006, I read an article from Michel Menu, research director of the French Museums' Centre for research and restoration. He claims that "Mona Lisa" wears a fine gauze veil which was typical for "either soon-to-be or new mothers at that time". All over the world this nonsense was sent with the help of the gullible journalists. I can assure you that there existed definitely never such a veil. There is not one single contemporary historical source supporting such a claim and consequently this must be again regarded as pure fantasy.
P.S.2: You may have read recently the latest article about "Mona Lisa", which was circulated by "dpa" in Germany: Grave of Mona Lisa discovered.. Do not forget that Mr. Pallantini is searching for the merchant's wife Lisa Gherardini and not for the woman depicted in Leonardo da Vinci's most famous portrait painting "Mona Lisa"!
P.S.3: The "Mona Lisa"-saga goes on. Now the director of the Heidelberg University Library, Mr. Veit Probst, wants to contribute to the issue of "Mona Lisa". And again, the Lady in the Louvre is the merchant's wife Lisa Gherardini (who else could it be, all other candidates would require some degree of historical knowledge, which Mr. Probst proves not to possess). And for him, as is the case for most art historians and Mr. Pallanti, just some written source containing a remark, not even mentioning Lisa Gherardini, but her sister-in-law Lisa del Giocondo, is sufficient to create a (scientific) context between her and the painting in the Louvre. Once again: no one denies the existence of Lisa Gherardini and Lisa del Giocondo and that Leonardo da Vinci produced a drawing (and not a painting!) of the latter in 1503. However, she is not the lady in the painting in the Louvre. Who that really is, is written in the painting in a way that was common in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: by the emblems and symbols of the dynasty whom the depicted was a member of. 

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UFO Abduction: Missing Time

Hundreds of people claimed they have had a bizarre experience called “missing time.” You are about to meet one of them—a member of the Air Force who disappeared for an entire hour.  Under hypnosis, he described his abduction, believe it or not, by aliens.
At 8:45 PM on October 1, 1966, a bus pulled up in front of Dutra’s Market, in the small Cape Cod village of North Truro.  Only one man got off the bus, nineteen-year-old Airman First Class Robert Matthews.  He was reporting for his first tour of duty at a nearby Air Force base and noticed that the area was deserted:
“I got off where the bus driver told me where I was supposed to get off.  And he told me to phone the base and they would send a truck down to pick me up.  I told him that I was in front of Dutra’s Market and he told me to stay there and that there would be a truck there to pick me up in a minute.  While I was standing there, I saw these lights you know, moving from right to left across the sky.  That’s when I felt this fear.”
Matthews called the base again and informed them that something strange was happening:
“When I called the base again, they asked me where I’d been and he told me, he says, we sent a truck down there already.  And I says, well I’ve been standing here waiting and no one’s been by here.”

Budd Hopkins studied abduction stories
The Air Force told Bob Matthews that a driver had arrived to pick him up at 8:50 PM, just five minutes after his first phone call.  The driver claimed that Matthews was nowhere in sight.  Almost an hour later, at 9:45, the base had received the second call from Matthews.  Yet in Bob Matthews’ mind, those two phone calls had been made less than four minutes apart.
According to Budd Hopkins, an author of several books on the phenomenon, the “missing time” Bob Matthews experienced is a mini-period of amnesia:
“It is not perceived as a break in which something happens and then a resumption.  It is… remembered as continuous and… the half hour trip… turns out to be a two hour trip or whatever, and this is sometimes experienced in conjunction with a UFO sighting or something like a light, but not always.”
In 1964, Hopkins experienced a UFO sighting himself.  He has since delved into the field and became an expert on the subject of missing time and alien abduction:
“I began getting phone calls from people and letters and many of their sighting reports had pieces of missing time in them.  They could not account for what, why something that should’ve taken 15 minutes took two hours and a half, a drive in a car, which involved in a sighting of a UFO.  And we began looking into those cases and discovered one after another of these abduction cases.” 

“Their eyes are often very, very black.”
Bob Matthews was one of the people who contacted Budd Hopkins:
“I was on vacation looking for something to read and on the shelf there in front of me, I saw this book with this creature on it you know.  I read the book and I thought someone had stepped into my head and taken my innermost fears and put them in a book.  It brought tears to my eyes, you know, I couldn’t believe this was actually happening to someone else.”
After weeks of intensive interviews, Budd Hopkins put Bob Matthews under hypnosis to explore the details about what happened to him outside of Dutra’s market.  According to Bud, hypnosis is a very useful tool in retrieving lost memories:
“So I connected myself with a psychiatrist and a couple of psychologists who were doing the hypnosis.  And we began looking into a number of cases.  Bob Matthews’ case is…  a very good missing time case because of the fact that there is an indirect witness to his having been missing…”
Bob’s recollections were so vivid that he was able to return to Cape Cod and reconstruct what he believed took place outside Dutra’s Market:
“Under hypnosis, I observed in the sky, three lights moving in this direction. They hovered over here.  And the red one came at me so fast… I walked up to… the ramp and I looked inside.  And I saw four beings sitting… And the place reminded me of a doctor’s office.”
There’s no question that Bob Matthews’ story of alien abduction stretches the imagination.  The idea seems unbelievable, even to those who claimed it happened to them.  But some take their stories even one step further than Bob’s.  They say they’ve been victims of experiments… and they claim to have physical evidence to prove it.
Budd Hopkins has organized support groups for these people so they can compare their disturbing experiences of missing time and alien abduction.  Kristina Florence, a New York choreographer, believed she has had multiple experiences of missing time and alien abduction.  In 1974, Kristina was 17-years-old when she, her mother, and her older sister crossed the Mojave Desert on their way to San Francisco.  According to Kristina, their car overheated near Barstow, California, and they took the first exit off the highway: 
“Somewhere along the line we got to this park.  My sister got out of the car and I heard her run around the back and all of a sudden she said, oh my God, come out here quick.  And the next thing I remembered consciously was that we were lying on this blanket in the middle of the park as if we’d had a little nap, just lying there.  Our mom was still not around.  And we woke up and we were like, whoa, what happened.  And then the next thing I remember, the three of us are just driving like hell.  We never talked about it until my sister just called me up one day and we sort of began to talk about it further and realized that we’d both had this very bizarre memory of this missing time thing.  And she knew about Budd and she suggested I get in touch with Budd.”
Kristina took her sister’s advice and contacted Budd Hopkins. She agreed to undergo hypnosis, hoping she could recall some details about what had happened that afternoon in Barstow:
“Under hypnosis, I started having this picture that my sister’s getting out of the car and then I get out of the car and I looked up and there was something above the car.  And I was so scared, I didn’t know what it was… And I was trying to start the car and it wouldn’t start. Then the next memory that I had under the hypnosis was that I was on a table and there were some people around. There was this screen, it was about as wide as a large television screen but it was paper thin and it was just moving around the table and it wasn’t attached to anything.  And I could see three-dimensional shapes of my skull and my whole body. It was just taking pictures. And it was just this huge spherical room that was just covered with dials, there wasn’t space. It was just dials. And I felt like they put like these rubber pants on me or something with things attached.  And then they left the room. And I lay there and I was asking for my sister and somebody was telling me she’s okay, she’s alright… that’s the last thing I remember. Then we were back on the grass.”
If Kristina’s abduction actually happened, then the question is: why?  Bob Matthews may have the answer:
“Ultimately the focus becomes reproductive and the interest seems to have to do with taking sperm and ova samples.  And the whole central focus of the physical part of it seems to deal with the idea of an ongoing genetic experiment and these abductees are involuntary victims or specimen in this ongoing genetic experiment.”
The idea of abduction by aliens may seem outrageous. Yet those who have experienced missing time episodes believe that is exactly what happened to them.  Of course, there is no proof either way. Perhaps someday, science will discover a reason for missing time.  Until then, the rest of us should just be glad that all of our minutes have been accounted for.

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Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley has been called the World's Greatest Entertainer. But on August 16, 1977, his life came to a shocking end.  At first, it was said he died of a heart attack.  Later reports blamed a massive drug overdose.  But Presley’s own stepbrother, David Stanley,  is convinced that The King's death was not accidental.  He says that Elvis committed suicide:
“Elvis Presley woke up on the 16th of August, premeditated, planned, took, and killed himself deliberately.”
Most people refuse to believe that Elvis Presley might have killed himself.   However, David Stanley's eyewitness account, along with the physical evidence, makes a compelling case.
Drugs were a part of Elvis Presley's daily routine -- 3 times a day, on a strict schedule, nearly a dozen different prescription drugs were administered to him by members of his entourage.  These drugs included Seconal and Demerol.  Insiders say that this dangerous cycle of drug use began in 1958 when Elvis was drafted into the army and sent overseas. 
Red West was one of his closest friends:
“I went to Germany with him after I got out of the Marine Corps.  He was on guard duty on the Russian front, and if you went to sleep and got caught asleep, you’re in trouble. So this sergeant said, "Take these little things here. They'll keep you up."  And, wow, man, it started feeling good and that's how it began.”

Elvis and Memphis friends
After the army, Elvis returned to his life as an entertainer, and according to pop culture historian Chuck Harter, he had high hopes for becoming a serious actor:
“Elvis' greatest desire was to be a serious dramatic actor, and this was denied him because his management felt that they wouldn't make as much money if they put him in a dramatic role. They wanted him to be in the formula. So this depressed him a great deal.”
Elvis was frustrated by lightweight movie roles and overwhelmed by the endless demands of his fans.  He retreated behind the gates of his Memphis mansion, Graceland.
Chuck Harter made this observation:
“Elvis sort of put himself into a cocoon. And Graceland, more or less, became a tomb for him, or a cave to go hide from life. The windows were sealed. The outside did not enter in. So his day-to-day touch with reality had really been removed.”
David Stanley, Elvis’ stepbrother, had this to say:
“People would say, what do you think the most difficult part of Elvis Presley's life was?  Being Elvis Presley, looking out a window, seeing 10,000 people who think you can walk on water; walking out on a stage and seeing 22,000 flashbulbs going off; thinking you are a king.”

Elvis was administered medication on a daily basis
The combination of high times on tour and isolation at home took its toll on Elvis.  His absences, affairs, and drug use led to the end of his stormy 6-year marriage to Priscilla.
David says this was a difficult time for Elvis:
“He would get himself in a rage over that. You know, he would get himself so worked up over it, that he'd begin to take the medications to deal with the depression of the rage. And then suddenly, some shows are starting to be canceled.”
Insiders say that, by the mid-70s, Elvis was so dependent on drugs that he required supervision around the clock.  David Stanley and a group of men known as "the lifers" gave him anything he wanted:
“We were the ones who were with Elvis all the time. Elvis needs something to eat. Elvis needs to be woken up at a certain time. Elvis needs his medication.”
Elvis demanded that everyday he receive 3 separate doses of drugs that he called "attacks."  Each "attack" contained a dangerous combination of pills or shots of Valium, Nembutal, Demerol, Quaalude, and Seconal.  David Stanley says the first "attack" was usually given between 2 and 3 a.m:
“After he'd take his attack, attack one, he would have a couple of cheeseburgers, potatoes. The "attack one" effect would get him groggy and sleepy. We would have to watch Elvis, 'cause sometimes he would be eating and just fall asleep with food in his mouth, oftentimes choking on his own food.”

Three former employees wrote a tell-all book
After sleeping for a few hours, Elvis would receive "attack" number two: 
“That would last for several hours. Now you're in the morning hours. You know, you're looking at 10:00 or 11:00. Then it would be attack 3, which was the same contents of attack one and 2. So you're talking, by the time you got done-- let's just call it 11 sleeping pills per attack-- that's 33. Let's call it 3 shots of Demerol per-- that's 9 shots. And some people would say, "Well, golly, that's 6 months worth."  That was a nightly dose.”
Red West, Elvis’ lifelong friend, tried to intervene:
“I talked to him about drugs. I said, "You don't need this stuff."  He said, "Nuh-uh. You're wrong. I do need it." And that's when I threw my hands up and said, "I've done all I can do."  And I was gone shortly thereafter.”
Elvis' became more and more depressed in the weeks before his death.  Despite the millions he'd made, he was short of money.  He was overweight, in poor health, dreading his next tour, and reportedly impotent.  
But perhaps Elvis was most upset about a book some former employees were about to publish just before his next tour.  Chuck Harter knew Elvis was concerned about the tour:
“This would be the first time that the fans saw him overweight, not looking good, with the knowledge of what the book contained. And it was, "Oh, my god, they'll know."  And he knew the whistle had been blown on his clean image, and he was terrified.”
David Stanley witnessed Elvis’s decline:
“You could see the, "God, I don't know if it's worth going on" mentality. Kind of dreading the tour one day, "I don't wanna go on tour. They're gonna think this, they're gonna think that."  He was just really confused.”
“The last time I saw Elvis, he said good-bye to me. He was crying. ‘I love you.’  He hugged me. ‘I'll never, ever see you again.  The next time you see me, it'll be in a higher place and a different plane.’”
The day Elvis Presley died was different than most.  He ignored his usual late-night feast.  He was given his 3 "attack" envelopes -- nearly 3 dozen pills and 9 syringes full of drugs -- at their usual times, but Elvis left them untouched. 
Ginger Alden, Presley’s girlfriend, was the last person to see him alive.  According to reports, around 9:30 a.m., Elvis got out of bed and went to the bathroom to read.   And a few hours later, that's where his body was found.  Paramedics were already there by the time David Stanley arrived. 
David says he found all 3 "attack" envelopes and several Demerol syringes nearly empty.  He believes Elvis took all 3 "attacks" at once purposely, to end his life: 
“I looked and saw Elvis in the fetal position and knew he was gone. The first thing I said was, ‘You son of a bitch!’ I knew right there and then at that time that Elvis said, ‘I am out of here.’”
The official autopsy found that Elvis died of an irregular heartbeat due to severe cardiovascular disease.  Dr. Kevin Merigian has studied the official coroner's toxicology report:
“I don't think there's any evidence that there was a tremendous amount of drug abuse or anything misuse. I know there's been a lot of theories and there's been a lot of conjecture. There's always a debate. That kind of adds to the mystique of Elvis. But he didn't die of an overdose. He died of some event, probably cardiac in origin.” 
David Stanley disagrees:
“I'm telling you what I know. And the fact is, that much medication will kill you. And Elvis knew that.”
Red West, Elvis’ lifelong friend, doesn’t accept the suicide theory:
“I know him like a book. I know he was religious, and I know what he would do and what he wouldn't do.  And he would not kill himself purposely.”
Exactly how did Elvis Presley die? This controversy may one day be settled.  Elvis' father Vernon Presley reportedly commissioned a private autopsy after the official report was completed.  Exactly what those doctors found is still unknown.  At Vernon Presley's request, the results will remain sealed until the year 2027. 
source :

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Noah’s Ark

Two explorers believe they’ve located the remnants of Noah’s ark in the mountains of Turkey.

Artists rendering of Noah’s ark

Mt. Ararat, Turkey

Ark research team
Mount Ararat: according to the Bible, it’s the area where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the great storm. It’s a desolate terrain rising above the headwaters of the Tigris River. In recent years, several expeditions have explored the Ararat Mountains. Incredibly, two separate teams believe they may have found the ark, in two different locations, 17 miles apart.
One of the sites is on Mount Ararat’s northeast side under a permanent 23-square-mile glacier. A Turkish businessman named George Hagobian said that when he was a young boy in 1906, he saw Noah's Ark wedged in a melted part of the glacier. Hagobian described the vessel to archaeological illustrator Elfred Lee:
“He said it looked like a long box. It was rectangular and the corners were kind of rounded a little bit. The sides sloped in slightly. The roof, he said, was basically flat with just a slight pitch to it, and there was a stair kind of an apparatus at one end. His uncle hoisted him up onto this ladder, and he walked on up onto the roof. And there, all the way down the middle of the roof, he saw these holes, and he stuck his head in, and it was dark. He shouted, and his voice echoed and re-echoed inside. It was hollow. Hagobian went back a couple years later, saw the same thing, but ice and snow were beginning to cover it up again.”

Artist rendering of possible ark
Seventeen years later, Elfred Lee met Ed Davis, who, in 1943, was stationed in Iran with the U.S. Army. According to Lee, Davis also said he had seen the ark:
 “When Ed Davis started talking, the hair on the back of my head just stood up, because I could hear an echo of George Hagobian from years before.”
Ed Davis' sighting occurred in roughly the same area as George Hagobian's. However, Davis said when he saw what he thought was the ark, it had broken in two:
“We waited a while, and the fog kind of lifted, and it shone through in the end. You could see in the end of it. And we saw both parts. You stand there with your mouth wide open.”
Elfred Lee recalled his conversation with Davis:
“Ed Davis described three decks inside and large cages on the bottom deck, smaller cages on the second deck, and on the roof, a venting system with many holes on it, so you could see how the light and ventilation could go clear to the bottom deck.”

A second theory
Although Hagobian and Davis weren’t able to pinpoint the exact locations, their stories intrigued Don Shockey, an amateur archaeologist:
“I can't think of anything more exciting that I could be doing in my lifetime than having a small part in seeing this, whatever it is, verified. And we have good reason to believe there's something there. We’ve got to prove it.”
Don Shockey launched an expedition to Mount Ararat after studying classified U.S. satellite photos. Don said that for three days, he and his guides climbed up the mountain’s south side:
“Our whole goal was to get to this spot, over the top, down the glaciers, to this particular location and verify what the satellite information had told us.”
The Turkish government prevented them from traveling to the north side, so Ahmet, a Turkish guide, continued on by himself. 
Ahmet crested Mt. Ararat and started down the north slope. At an elevation of nearly 16,000 feet, he spotted something half-buried in the snow. From a distance of 300 yards, he took a photograph, which seemed to show the end of a rectangular object with a peaked roof: Don Shockey recalled:
“He came back, and I said, ‘Is anything showing?’ He said, ‘A coop, a coop. Like a chicken coop. It had a pointed top.’ And he said that you could see the outline of it. He said in all of his years, he had never seen anything like it. He said, ‘There's some artifact there.’"
Don Shockey believed that Ahmet might have glimpsed the remains of Noah's Ark.  Shockey returned to the States and took the photograph to forensic anthropologist Dr. Jim Ebert:
“It certainly does not look natural. It looks very strikingly man-made to me. What I see when I look at this is something that stands out from the rest of the terrain, and that is what looks like a solid structure. You'll never know until you get up there and can see it and stand next to it.”
Shockey returned to Mt. Ararat and studied the mountain from the air. Unfortunately, the site was now covered by snow.  Shockey stopped his search but remained convinced that he might have found the resting place of Noah's Ark. Others, like author and ark researcher David Fasold, disagreed:
“We've been told for years that Noah's Ark is on top of Mt. Ararat because that's what the Bible says. And that's not what the Bible says. The Bible says the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat, that word is in the plural.”
David Fasold was a former merchant marine officer and merchant salvage expert. He believed that the ark was buried a full 17 miles south of Mt. Ararat. Fasold said his team searched the site and discovered traces of iron, which don’t appear to be natural deposits:
“Every 20-30 inches, approximately, we have the remains of an iron fitting or iron pin of sorts that are still there in the soil and discernible.”
Fasold’s team brought back one of the iron fittings, one of 5,400 he said they found:
“It’s been cut in half by a diamond saw, scanned by electron microscopes at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and this particular iron fitting is 94.84% man-made wrought iron.”
Looking at the mound from above, the iron deposits form a distinct pattern of intersecting lines, which Fasold believes is the framework of the ark. Fasold said the boat’s length is 515 feet and the width averages 85 feet, the same measurements recorded in the Bible:
“Given the shape of the thing and the size of the thing and where they found it, I mean, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, until somebody finds something else, what else could it possibly be but Noah's Ark?”
Some have suggested that David Fasold found the remains of an ancient Mongol fort. Others say it’s a geological formation. However, the Turkish government has declared the mound the official site where Noah's Ark rests. Fasold said he’s certain of his find:
“The man who was in charge, Professor Sali Barrak Tutam, who is also a geologist, he says it's Noah's Ark, 200%. It is not a geological anomaly. It's a man-made structure.”
Has one of mankind's greatest mysteries finally been solved on a remote mountain range?  It’s obvious that there needs to be more exploration before we’ll know the answer. 


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