Thursday, April 10, 2008
Was Da Vinci's Mother a Slave?
Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
April 9, 2008 -- Leonardo Da Vinci, regarded by many as the greatest genius of the Renaissance, was the son of a humble slave girl and had at least 21 half-siblings, according to compelling new evidence unveiled in Florence, Italy, on Wednesday.
Newly discovered documents published in two books ("Was Leonardo's Mother a Slave?" and "Leonardo's Family Tree," both edited by da Vinci scholars Agnese Sabato and Alessandro Vezzosi) have made it possible to reconstruct da Vinci's little-known family tree.
"Da Vinci's family was indeed a large one. His father Piero married not his mother, but four other women. His mother Caterina was married off to another man and had five children of her own. That's what you would call an enlarged family," Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Museo Ideale in the Tuscan town of Vinci, told Discovery News.
Very little has been known about da Vinci's mother and the circumstances of his birth. The only account dates to a 1457 tax record in which the artist's grandfather listed the members of his family and briefly described his grandson:
"Lionardo, aged 5, the illegitimate child of Ser Piero and Caterina, who at present is married to Acchattabriga di Piero del Vaccha da Vinci."
Beyond this, scholars had very little to go on. While Ser Piero was easily identified as a Florentine notary, nothing was known about Caterina. As legend has it, she was a peasant girl from Vinci.
Now, 30-year-old research conducted by the late director of the Leonardo Library, published by his son Francesco, suggests a completely different scenario.
"Archival research has shown that there isn't any Caterina in Vinci or nearby villages that can be linked to Ser Piero. The only Caterina in Piero's life seems to be a slave girl who lived in the house of his wealthy friend Vanni di Niccolo di Ser Vanni," Cianchi wrote.
Evidence for "the slave Caterina" comes from Vanni's newly discovered will. The wealthy banker named his friend Ser Piero the executor of his will, and left most of his estate to a religious order. He left the slave girl to his wife Agnola and his Florentine house in via Ghibellina to Ser Piero.