Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci's muse for Mona Lisa may have suffered from hypothyroidism, according to an Indian-origin scientist who studied the features of the world-famous portrait.
Mandeep R Mehra, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in the US, summarised the possible medical conditions visible in the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the woman pictured in Mona Lisa, and proposed his own interpretations.
Previous research suggested that skin lesions and hand swellings visible in the portrait may be indicative of a lipid disorder and heart disease.
Researchers asserted that familial hyperlipidemia and premature atherosclerosis could have caused Lisa Gherardini's death. They also proposed that Mona Lisa's famous smile may have been the result of Bell's palsy.
After examining the painting, Mehra said that clinical hypothyroidism is a more likely diagnosis given that Lisa Gherardini lived to be 63.
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone.
Had she suffered from heart disease and a lipid disorder, it's unlikely she would have lived to such an advanced age given the limited treatments available in 16th century Italy.
"The enigma of the Mona Lisa can be resolved by a simple medical diagnosis of a hypothyroidism-related illness. In many ways, it is the allure of the imperfections of disease that give this masterpiece its mysterious reality and charm," said Mehra.
The study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, cited the Mona Lisa's thinning hair, yellow skin, and possible goiter as visual evidence of hypothyroidism.
The diet of Italians during the Renaissance was lacking in iodine, and resulting goiters -- swollen thyroid gland -- were commonly depicted in paintings and sculptures of the era.
Mehra also noted that Lisa Gherardini gave birth shortly before sitting for the portrait, which indicates the possibility of inflammation of the thyroid after pregnancy.
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