Leonardo Da Vinci's Thumbprint Discovered On Drawing

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 04:00
Leonardo's thumbprint on drawing from Royal Collection

Leonardo da Vinci’s thumbprint has been discovered on one of his drawings belonging to the Royal Collection Trust of Queen Elizabeth II.

The thumbprint was found on ‘The cardiovascular system and principal organs of a woman,’ an anatomical study of the principal organs and the arterial system of a female torso, dated circa 1509-10. The thumbprint is near the left arm of the cadaver.

“At the centre of the sheet’s left edge, the print is in the same reddish-brown ink as the ink lines of the drawing. It can only be concluded that, after creating the work, the left-handed Leonardo picked up the sheet with inky fingers,” the Royal Collection Trust reports on its website.

The discovery was revealed in a new book by Alan Donnithorne, the former head of paper conservation at the Royal Collection Trust. Published on February 1, “Leonardo da Vinci . A Closer Look” is the result of 20 years of research, which analyses 80 of Leonardo’s drawings in the Royal Collection, using a range of techniques, including microscopy, ultraviolet imaging, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence (XRF).

The publication of the book coincided with the opening of 12 simultaneous exhibitions across the U.K. of Leonardo’s drawings from the Royal Collection to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death, “Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing”; the drawings will be brought together in May for an exhibition at The Queen’s Galleries in London and in the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh in November.

The drawing with the thumbprint is part of the celebratory exhibitions and is on display at National Museum Cardiff until May 6, 2019.

“This is as close as you are ever going to get to Leonardo, when you can see his print as clearly as this,” said to The Guardian Martin Clayton, the head of prints and drawings at the Royal Collection Trust Clayton. “It is so clear it almost looks deliberate. […] There are smudges and partial prints on Leonardo’s other drawings, but this is far and away the crispest, clearest, most definite Leonardo thumbprint or fingerprint.”

The Royal Collection owns the greatest number of Leonardo drawings in the world, and they are normally viewable by appointment only at Windsor Castle.

For more information about the U.K: exhibitions, visit the Royal Collection website

Check out our stories about Leonardo da Vinci and the 500th anniversary.