A recently assembled Leonardo da Vinci family tree, spanning 21 generations from 1331 to the present, could pave the way for DNA testing that might confirm whether the bones interred in da Vinci’s grave are actually his. Two art historians’ hopes of uncovering a genetic explanation for the Renaissance artist’s brilliance, however, will probably be doomed by scientific reality.
Da Vinci’s modern family
To construct the family tree, art historians Alessandro Vezzosi and Agnese Sabato dug through birth, death, and property records spanning the last 690 years. They also interviewed surviving relatives to learn more about the famous artist, scientist, and inventor’s modern extended family. In the end, they traced da Vinci’s family from his grandfather, born in 1331, to the 14 relatives living today. Leonardo da Vinci himself had no children, and his modern relatives all descend from his 22 (!) half-siblings.
The present family played an essential role in the new study. “Many of them have collaborated, together with their relatives, to the collection and verification of information,” wrote Vezzosi and Sabato, “helping enthusiastically to contact other family members and retrieve new documents and images.” Those many-times-great nieces and nephews include several office workers (one of whom served as a naval gunner in the 1960s), a retired upholsterer, a surveyor, and a state employee who is “passionate about motorcycling and music.” The oldest is now 85 years old, and the youngest is just one year old.