A newly discovered document has shed new light on the origins of the Renaissance icon
Leonardo da Vinci, the master painter of the Mona Lisa and famous artist of the Renaissance movement, was the son of an Italian father and a slave mother who was trafficked to Italy from the Caucasus, according to a recently released study.
“Leonardo’s mother was a Circassian slave [who was] taken from her home in the Caucasus mountains, sold and resold several times in Constantinople, then Venice before arriving in Florence”, said Carlo Vecce, a Vinci expert from the University of Naples, on Tuesday.
It was in Florence, Vecce added, that the artist’s mother met Piero da Vinci, with whom she had a son named Leonardo. Previously, experts generally agreed that Leonardo da Vinci’s mother was named Caterina, and her son was born in 1452.
Key to Vecce’s findings was uncovering a document in the Florence State Archives dated 1452 and believed to be written by da Vinci’s father – who worked as a notary – in which he sought legal emancipation from the slavery for a woman named Caterina so “to recover his freedom and recover his human dignity”.
Vecce said that “the man who loved Caterina…gave her this child called Leonardo.”
His call for emancipation indicates that the Caterina he was referring to was a slave, and challenges the long-held theory that da Vinci was the product of an affair between Piero da Vinci and a Tuscan peasant woman named Caterina di Meo Lippi. Despite the drastic change in understanding of da Vinci’s supposed lineage, Vecce’s claims have been supported by other historians.
One of these academics, Paolo Galluzzi of the Lincei scientific academy in Rome, described the results as “by far the most convincing” proof of the true origins of the artist. However, he warned that doubt remains “Because we can’t do a DNA test.”
Leonardo da Vinci was a polymath who forged new ground in several artistic and scientific fields before his death in France in 1519. He is considered a key figure in the Renaissance – a period in European history that oversaw a transition from Middle Ages to relative modernity.
The Caucasus region is located between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
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