HE is one of the most influential artists in history who remains known the world over hundreds of years after his death. Now Leonardo da Vinci’s living descendants have been traced in a decades-long project that hopes to offer further insight into the Renaissance genius.


Da Vinci…

…has lost none of his star power. A study of a bear’s head, drawn on pale beige paper around 1480, sold for a record £8.8 million at Christie’s auction house in London earlier this month. Measuring just 7cm square, it beat the previous record of £8.1 million for his ‘horse and rider’ drawing at Christie’s in 2001.


He was a true genius?

A polymath, Da Vinci - who was born in Anchiano, in Florence in 1452 and died in France in 1519 - was a Renaissance genius, gifted in sculpture, architecture, science and engineering. His most famous paintings include the Last Supper and of course, the Mona Lisa.


Where are they now?

His mural of the Last Supper is still in its original site on the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy, while the Mona Lisa draws more than 10 million visitors a year at The Louvre in Paris, making it the world’s most visited artwork.


And his relatives have now been found?

The exhaustive project to delve into Da Vinci's family tree is documented in the new issue of the journal, Human Evolution, revealing the painstaking efforts undertaken to show the continuity in the direct male line, from father-to-son, of the Da Vinci family down through the years, piecing together 21 generations and four branches that have led to the discovery of 14 people currently alive can claim to be his descendants.


What’s the aim of the project?

The authors say “such results are eagerly awaited from an historical viewpoint” as although detailed information on their identities has not been provided to the public to protect their privacy, the Leonardo Da Vinci DNA Project can use the findings to improve understanding of Da Vinci himself. 



The authors say that “like the surname, male heredity connects the history of registry records with biological history along separate lineages” and as a result, "present genealogy, which spans almost seven hundred years, can be used to verify, by means of the most innovative technologies of molecular biology, the unbroken transmission of the Y chromosome…with a view to confirming the recovery of Leonardo’s ‘Y marker’.”


‘Y marker’?

The Y chromosome passes down virtually unchanged from father to son and the project team believe this “will make available useful elements to scientifically explore the roots of his genius, to find information on his physical prowess and on his possibly precocious ageing, on his being left-handed and his health and possible hereditary sicknesses, and to explain certain peculiar sensory perceptions, like his extraordinary visual quality and synesthesia”, as the allure of Lenoardo continues.