AFP

BEIJING

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 Wednesday.

Angelo Paratico, a Hong Kong-based historian and novelist from Italy, told the South China Morning Post: ‘On the back of Mona Lisa, there is a Chinese landscape and even her face looks Chinese.’ 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. 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.