Uffizi confirms, Leonardo was ambidextrous

Leonardo da Vinci was ambidextrous. This is confirmed by the analysis and diagnostic studies carried out by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence on his Paesaggio 8P.

The major diagnostic campaign carried out by theOpificio delle Pietre Dure of Florence on the Landscape known as 8P (from its inventory number) and considered by many scholars to be the earliest known drawing by Leonardo da Vinci (dated August 5, 1473), has revealed that the great genius was ambidextrous. The diagnostic analysis was carried out ahead of the work’s April 15 move to Vinci for the exhibition At the Origins of Genius organized for the 500th anniversary of his death. The study was conducted by a team of specialists, using experimental techniques and machinery, under the supervision of art historian and Opificio official Cecilia Frosinini.

Confirmation of the ambidexterity is provided by comparing two inscriptions on the work, one on the front and the other on the back: the first, from right to left, reads “Dì di s[an]ta Maria della neve / addj 5 daghossto 1473,” the second, from left to right, reads “Io, Morando d’Antoni, sono chontento.” Both are autograph and written in the same ink, with which he made most of the Landscape; a combined study of the materials, the typical features of his handwriting, and comparison with other documents have shown that the artist penned the ’mirror’ writing on the front presumably with his left hand, while for the one on the back, with ordinary verse, he used his right hand.

“Leonardo was born left-handed, but he was re-educated to the use of his right hand as a young boy. From observation of his writings, including the one on drawing, it is clear that his right-handed handwriting is learned, well done; Leonardo knows how to use this hand well. As for the mirrored handwriting, with verse from right to left, it is likely that Leonardo himself, as an adult, voluntarily chose to adopt this original style, which is in fact, in the early examples, very elaborate, I would even say contrived; then, with the passage of time and continuity of use, it becomes more simplified and cursive. Our hypothesis is that he got the idea from observing the backwards lettering on the transparencies he used for the drawings, after turning them upside down,” explained Cecilia Frosinini.

The analyses also uncovered two different draftings of the landscape on the front and a similar process on the back, where there are two landscapes, one superimposed on the other, completely different from the one drawn on the front. They depict a river scene, with in the center a waterway and two banks connected by a bridge, and on the left a formation of sharp, jagged rocks. Leonardo had set this scene in lampblack; he later emphasized some of its shapes with ink, adding mountain peaks as well. The use of lampblack for sheet 8P testifies that Leonardo used this material at an earlier time than scholars have believed to date.
Also visible on the reverse are, below the river landscape in the lower left and further up, some lead point drawings, a stylized flower (a rosette) and some geometric motifs.

Diagnostic studies were carried out through many non-invasive examinations and with scientific technologies and prototypes: infrared beams of a very advanced model, capable of capturing 32 different color bands, devised by the CNR-Ino (National Institute of Optics); an innovative fluorescence X-ray system; a portable detector of organic materials; and classic microscope observations and the use of ultra-high resolution photodiagnostics.

To create the 8P Landscape, Leonardo resorted to various tools and materials: a lead stylus that left a gray trace on the paper, a sort of lapis ante litteram, which was what Leonardo used to trace the ’base,’ the draft of the entire drawing, and on this draft he worked with ink. Instead, he painted completely freehand the vegetation, the remaining part of the terrain, the mountains and the waters. The drawing on the front was done in two stages: first he used the stylus, glossy paper and a first ink; then a second ink.

"The elements that emerged during this investigation campaign open new perspectives on the interpretation of Leonardo’s 8P drawing and on how the artist ’constructed’ the Landscape, on his technique and even on his writing habits and skills, discovering him ambidextrous: a real revolution in the field of Leonardo studies. In recent years, the collaboration between the Uffizi Galleries and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, an institute for the restoration and technological investigation of works of art that has no equal in the world, has made it possible to conduct research that has always brought new results, sometimes unexpected especially when it came to celebrated works that are now seemingly without mystery. I recall the recent case of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Saint Catherine, under which two more drafts were found. Now it is the turn of Leonardo’s drawing, but we are counting on many more important surprises and discoveries over the next few years," said the director of the Uffizi Galleries, Eike Schmidt.

Pictured: recto of Landscape 8P by Leonardo da Vinci

Source: release

Uffizi confirms, Leonardo was ambidextrous
Uffizi confirms, Leonardo was ambidextrous

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