A thumbprint of Leonardo da Vinci discovery: the drawing of Queen Elizabeth's collection reveals secrets

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Leonardo da Vinci's thumbprint was discovered in a drawing by the Renaissance master belonging to Queen Elizabeth II.

The hidden details are revealed in a new book entitled "Leonardo da Vinci: a closer look". This book analyzes 80 drawings by Léonard from the royal collection, shedding new light on the work of a famous artist.

The thumbprint was found on "The Cardiovascular System and Main Organs of a Woman," anatomical drawing of Leonardo dating from about 1509-1510.

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"In the center of the left edge of the sheet, the print is in the same reddish-brown ink as the lines in the drawing," says the Royal Collection Trust. "One can only conclude that, after creating the work, Leonardo, left-handed, picked up the sheet with inked fingers."

Detail of Leonardo's work showing thumbprint (Royal Collection Trust)

Detail of Leonardo's work showing thumbprint (Royal Collection Trust)

Alan Donnithorne, the author of the book, is the former head of paper conservation at the Royal Collection Trust. In his research, he used the techniques of X-ray fluorescence, microscopy and ultraviolet imaging to study the drawings.

In the statement, Donnithorne notes that Leonardo has used a host of different types of paper. A careful analysis of "The Head of a Bearded Old Man in Profile", a drawing of 1519, shows that the paper contains straw and rope fragments that the paper maker used to repair the leaf.

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"The document" A sketch of the viscera ", c.1515-16, contains fragments of wood shavings, hairs, wool and insects, possibly swept by the floor of the factory", explains the royal collection in his communicated.

Close up of one of Leonardo's works showing parts of insects and woolen fibers

Close up of one of Leonardo's works showing parts of insects and woolen fibers
(Royal Collection Trust)

Other works have revealed their secrets in recent years. Last year, for example, scientists exploited sophisticated radiography and imaging technologies to reveal a lost painting and other hidden details in a Picasso masterpiece.

The painting, "La Misery Crouching", is a major work of the blue period of Picasso. A high-tech analysis of the 1902 painting, however, revealed how Picasso painted a landscape on a landscape. Buried images related to other works by Picasso have also been found.

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In 2017, a secret "ghostly" portrait of Mary, Queen of Scotland, was discovered under a 16th century painting. X-ray technology was used to reveal the unfinished portrait of the Scottish queen, who ruled from 1542 to 1567.

Photo folder - Sketch of the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519).

Photo folder – Sketch of the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519).
(Photo by Mansell / The LIFE image collection)

The portrait of Mary was painted with the portrait of Sir John Maitland, 1st Lord Maitland of Thirlestane. The 1589 painting of Maitland, who was Lord Chancellor of Scotland, was awarded to the Dutch artist Adrian Vanson.

Da Vinci continues to be a source of fascination for historians.

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Last summer, Italian experts announced that they had discovered Leonardo da Vinci's oldest work. The small enamelled terracotta tile, bearing the date "1471", is described as a self portrait of the artist under the name of Archangel Gabriel.

File photo - A cleaner vacuum cleaner in front of a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci drawn around 1515 or 1516, during the inauguration of the exhibition "Leonardo da Vinci, the European genius" in Brussels, August 17, 2007 .

File photo – A cleaner vacuum cleaner in front of a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci drawn around 1515 or 1516, during the inauguration of the exhibition "Leonardo da Vinci, the European genius" in Brussels, August 17, 2007 .
(REUTERS / Francois Lenoir)

The authenticity of the tile was however questioned by Martin Kemp, expert Leonardo, professor emeritus of art history at the University of Oxford.

May 2, 2019 also marks the 500th anniversary of the death of the master of the Renaissance.

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To commemorate this anniversary, the British Library in London will present a number of Leonardo's most important notebooks, all written in his famous "mirror writing".

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In addition to using his own shorthand, Leonardo also wrote his personal notes beginning with the right side of the page. It is unclear whether this mirrored writing was a way to keep his notes confidential or simply a way to prevent smudging, since Leonardo was left-handed.

Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers