Well this was certainly a chapter that Dan Brown skipped. According to Silvano Vinceti, chairman of the Italian National Committee for Cultural Heritage, the muse for the famous painting was Leo’s male lover, Gian Giacomo Caprott – also known as Salai. Ohhhhh damn. Drama in the art history department.
The mysterious “Salai” character was also said to have been the subject of several other “erotic” drawings of Leonardo’s. From Vinceti:
“Salai was very handsome and probably Leonardo’s lover. He stole from Leonardo and caused him many problems, but the artist always forgave him. Several of Leonardo’s works, including two paintings of St John the Baptist and a lesser-known drawing called ‘Angel Incarnate,’ were based on Salai. There were striking similarities between those works and that of the Mona Lisa, particularly in the depiction of mouths and noses.”
Didn’t see that one coming. Only took people 500+ years to piece that tidbit together.