VINCI, Italy — Are you related to the great Leonardo da Vinci? A new study finds there’s still at least a dozen people who are! Researchers in Italy say a new look at nearly 700 years of DNA information reveals the famous Renaissance man has at least 14 living male relatives.
The surprising results come from a decade-long study into da Vinci’s DNA. Researchers Alessandro Vezzosi and Agnese Sabato say the inventor is part of a male line (meaning genes passing from father to son) which spans 21 generations, includes five family branches, and still has male descendants living today — 690 years later.
The work expands on a 2016 discovery by the same researchers, which revealed that da Vinci still has “numerous living but indirect descendants.” That includes two men in the direct family line coming from the same branch of the Vinci family — shortened from “da Vinci” in modern times.
Although the painter of the Mona Lisa may still have relatives roaming around Europe, it’s important to note these are not da Vinci’s long-lost grandchildren. According to all known records, Leonardo da Vinci had no children of his own. However, he did have at least 22 half-brothers.
Researchers traced these five family branches from Leonardo’s father, ser Piero (5th generation), to his half-brother Domenico (6th generation). Going all the way back to the 15th generation, study authors collected records on over 225 individuals with ties to da Vinci’s family. The team even received help from some of those living descendants their research tracked down.
da Vinci’s Y chromosome still lives on
So how can scientists know for sure that these people are related to one of the most famous thinkers ever? Researchers say it all comes down to the Y chromosome, which men pass to their descendants. This chromosome remains unchanged for 25 generations.
Study authors add that if they can compare the Y chromosome of da Vinci’s living relatives with that of DNA in ancient burial sites they can verify that the inventor’s line is still continuing. Such a project would also certify Leonardo da Vinci’s own Y chromosome marker.
Once scientists confirm Vezzosi and Sabato’s findings, the team says da Vinci’s DNA could lead to a number of amazing revelations. Those include the reasons behind da Vinci’s great intelligence and vision, his parent’s origins, his diet, what diseases he may have had, and even why he was left-handed.
Scientists add confirming the great da Vinci’s DNA may also help to certify the authenticity of artwork experts believe the painter touched during the Renaissance.
The findings appear in the journal Human Evolution.