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Modern Mysteries

Da Vinci's 'claw hand' stopped him painting

By T.K. Randall
May 5, 2019 · Comment icon 4 comments



Could an injury have stopped Da Vinci finishing the Mona Lisa ? Image Credit: Leonardo da Vinci
A new study has suggested that an injury sustained from a fall may have left Leonardo da Vinci unable to paint.
The Renaissance genius, who is attributed with creating several world-famous works of art including the Mona Lisa and St. John the Baptist, lost much of the use of his right hand in his later years for reasons that researchers have struggled to agree on.

There are several pieces of evidence pointing to this disability, including a portrait depicting a problem with his hand and a journal entry penned following a Cardinal's visit to Da Vinci's house which described how his 'crippled right hand' had prevented him from painting properly.

While it has often been suggested that a stroke may have been the cause of his disability, a new study has put forward the theory that he may have instead sustained a hand injury in a fall.
The depiction of his hand in the portrait is particularly telling of this.

"Rather than depicting the typical clenched hand seen in post-stroke muscular spasticity, the picture suggests an alternative diagnosis such as ulnar palsy, commonly known as 'claw hand'," said Dr Davide Lazzeri who specializes in plastic and reconstructive surgery.

This, coupled with the apparent lack of any cognitive decline or motor impairment, suggests that a physical injury, rather than a stroke, was the most likely explanation.

"This may explain why he left numerous paintings incomplete, including the Mona Lisa, during the last five years of his career as a painter, while he continued teaching and drawing," said Dr Lazzeri.

Source: BBC News | Comments (4)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Seti42 4 years ago
I thought it was claimed that da Vinci was left-handed, or ambidextrous...I could be wrong, I'm a fan but not a full on scholar of the man.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Stiff 4 years ago
I was just thinking the same thing (regarding being ambidextrous) as I read the article.
Comment icon #3 Posted by quiXilver 4 years ago
lack of motivation is what stops me...
Comment icon #4 Posted by Susanc241 4 years ago
I once read that he was primarily left handed but also ambidextrous. If his right hand was the injured one, why would it stop him painting? Seems like they are just trying to find things for the sake of it.


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