More than 500 years after the death of da Vinci, the artist renowned for his world-famous Mona Lisa painting, an Oxford professor believes he finally has the answer to a question which has puzzled historians for generations.
It has been thought for some time that Da Vinci was an illegitimate child, born of an affair between a 15-year-old slave-girl, Caterina, and an older lawyer.
Professor Martin Kemp, however, now claims that the full name of the artist’s mother was Caterina di Meo Lippi, a peasant who lived with her grandmother in the Tuscan hills of Italy, just outside of Vinci.
Kemp puts the findings down to archives, including property tax records, which it was reported were previously overlooked by researchers.
With a father who disappeared early in her life, Caterina was left to be brought up by her grandmother in a decrepit Italian house.
15-year-old Caterina then became pregnant in 1451 by Ser Piero da Vinci, 25, a lawyer working in Florence, according to Professor Kemp.
Of these new findings, Kemp said: “Caterina was a peasant fallen on bad times, and you cannot be much lower in the social pile than that. To be a 16-year-old with an illegitimate son and no house was about as bad as it gets”.
Records also reveal that at the time, da Vinci senior was already engaged to be married, and Caterina herself was soon married off to Antonio di Piero Buti, a farmer.
It was, however, the house of his biological father in which baby Leonardo was brought up following his birth on 14 April 1452. According to Kemp, this is also where Leonardo was born.
Professor Kemp has long had a fascination with the life and times of Leonardo da Vinci. In 2000, he advised skydiver Adrian Nicholas as he constructed a parachute according to Leonardo’s drawings from materials which would have been available in his day. In 2007, Kemp was the mastermind behind an exhibition in London entitled Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment and Design.