Historians in Florence, Italy recently revealed some direct descendants of Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci. Four decades of research, beginning in 1973, have uncovered 35 descendants including a pastry chef, a policeman, an accountant, a retired blacksmith and an architect. The most famous is opera, television, and film Oscar-nominated (Romeo and Juliet,1968) director Franco Zeffirelli. Ironically, Zeffirelli was presented with a Leonardo Prize by the Italian president in 2007.
Historians Alessandro Vezzosi and Agnese Sabato reconstructed the genealogy of da Vinci and the lives and burial plots of some of his descendants. They recreated 15 generations. Vezzosi is director of the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Florence and Sabato is president of the International da Vinci Association. They scoured church and estate records in Italy, France and Spain.
We checked documents and tombs as far as France and Spain. We even found an unknown tomb of Leonardo’s family in Vinci.
Leonardo da Vinci was the illegitimate son of a father who was a Florentine legal notary named Ser Piero Da Vinci and his mother, recorded in 1457, Caterina, wife of Achattabriga di Piero dei Vaccha da Vinci. He was born in the Tuscany town of Vinci in 1452.
Though Leonardo da Vinci never married or had any known children, he had siblings. The historians found those descendants traced from his siblings. Most of them live around Florence and the nearby villages of Empoli and Vinci.
One descendant, architect Elene Calosi from Empoli told La Republica,
How does it feel to be descended from Leonardo da Vinci? Obviously I’m surprised, but happy, happy also for my grandmother who is no more, who was proud to have the name Vinci. Who has not studied Leonardo or seen his paintings?
Another descendant, Giovanni Calosi said that his mother had documents and letters that were written backwards and could only be read in a mirror. Da Vinci had used mirrored script. He says,
We never gave any importance to those documents, which were tossed and sold. What we thought was a legend passed down through generations turns out to be the truth.
Unfortunately, the genealogy cannot be backed up by da Vinci’s DNA. He died in 1519 in Amboise, France and his body was lost during religious wars during the 16th century. However, the historians next want to trace his DNA through the identified descendants.