A 16th-century drawing of Leonardo da Vinci suggests that the artist sustained traumatic nerve damage to his right hand that impaired his painting skills late in life, according to a new study.
Dr. David Lazzeri, a plastic reconstructive surgery specialist at Villa Salaria Clinic in Rome, and Dr. Carlo Rossi, a neurology specialist at Hospital of Pontedera, analyzed a red chalk drawing of Leonardo by Giovanni Ambrogio Figino and compared it with an engraving of Leonardo, as well as a biography. Their study was published Friday in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, coinciding with the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death.
The drawing is an undated rare depiction of Leonardo late in his life that shows his right arm wrapped in clothing, as if it was being used as a kind of bandage. His right hand is stiff and contracted.
Leonardo, the defining figure of a Renaissance man, was known for being ambidextrous. Analysis of his drawings, writings and paintings over the years has revealed that he wrote and drew with his left hand but never painted with it.
But something happened during the last years of his life. He struggled to hold palettes and paint brushes with his right hand, but he continued to draw and teach with his left hand. He died in 1519 due to an acute cardiovascular event.