Leonardo, battle about the lock of hair-relic. Schmidt: «Nobody believes it»

He was the one who tried to equip the man with wings, trying to fly above the hills of Florence from mount Ceceri. He is the one who recorded Mona Lisa’s enchanted beauty. He is the one who drew the Vitruvian man’s Euclidean perfection. He was everything: painter, sculptor, scenographer, writer, scientist, inventor, anatomist. A genius. Indeed, the Genius. He is Leonardo Da Vinci, and today, 500 years after his death, we are faced with a discovery that could be incredible. “We have recovered a strand of hair that has been historically named «Les Cheveux de Leonardo da Vinci»“. Leonardo who lives again, five centuries later, thanks to what probably are his hair, remained intact.

The announcement came from the editors of the exhibition “Leonardo Lives”, the Leonardo scholar Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo Da Vinci, and the historian Agnese Sabato, president of the Leonardo Da Vinci’s Heritage, who 2016 have disclosed the existence of Leonardo’s living descendants (or of his father, Ser Piero, and of his brother Domenico). And today, Wednesday, May 2, in front of the media flocked from all over the world, that lock of about twenty, blond hair was revealed to the public. “The historical exhibit of the lock of hair,” explains Vezzosi – that up to this time had remained in the secret of an American collection, has been displayed in world premiere, along with documents proving its ancient French origin”.

But how did they arrive at this discovery? The passage is complex: “The history of the precious relic, said Vezzosi– begins in 1863, when Arsène Houssaye, writer, and inspector general of the museums of the French province, a friend of Delacroix and Baudelaire, was asked by an imperial commission to search for Leonardo’s tomb in the ruins of the castle of Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci was buried on August 12, 1519. He found the remains of what he identified as the bones and the skull of the artist-scientist, thanks to some stone fragments of an inscription linked to the name of “Leonardus Vinci”; then they were reassembled in the tomb of the Chapel of Saint-Hubert to the Royal Castle of Amboise.

The documents currently on display at Vinci testify the fact that Houssaye kept for himself two relics. In fact, in 1925, Harold K. Shigley, cultured and passionate American collector of memorabilia, bought in Paris from the great-grandson of Houssaye, a lock of hair of Leonardo and a bronze ring found on Da Vinci’s finger”. In 1985, these two findings have passed into the hands of another American collector who, in 2016, having learned of our research on the genealogy of Leonardo, contacted us. After three years of work, we were able to bring back to Italy these findings, that today we can finally show in the Vinci’s Museo Ideale. The hair relic is not only a historical document, nor a mere relic, but an extraordinary tool of knowledge”. Then the clarification: “We do not have the absolute certainty of the truthfulness of the document of old French origin, however it stimulates us to follow the path to tackle a fascinating theme,” said Vezzosi.

In concrete terms, the DNA derived from the hair shall be compared with the “living descendants of Leonardo da Vinci, that we have identified here in Tuscany, and also with some of the burials, also abroad”.

“It is, however, the element that was missing to give further scientific concreteness to our historical research – adds the scholar Agnese Sabato – Thanks to the genetic analysis on such a finding, which will be cross-compared with the tests on the DNA of the living descendants and of the tombs that we have identified in recent years, it is now possible to do the checks, for the research of the genius’s DNA, also in relation to Leonardo’s tomb in Amboise”. To break the news a symbolic date, May 2, has been chosen. On the day of the fifth centenary of Leonardo’s death, the exhibition “Leonardo lives” begins in Vinci, also on the occasion of the reopening of the “Museo Ideale Leonardo Da Vinci” and the opening of the new “Museo Leonardo and the wine’s Renaissance”.

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