Experts embarking on a major project to investigate the genius of Leonardo da Vinci hope to extract DNA from the Renaissance Man’s fingerprints.
An international team including scientists and historians will analyse evidence from paintings, drawings and notebooks touched by the famous Italian polymath.
The researchers are also seeking permission to look for DNA traces in dust from the painting Adoration of the Magi, currently undergoing restoration in Florence.
Any genetic material obtained and sequenced will be compared with DNA from da Vinci’s living and dead relatives, as well as skeletal or other remains that might be discovered in the future.
Born just outside Florence on 15 April, 1452, Leonardo da Vinci possessed a natural genius that encompassed art, engineering, architecture and biology.
His paintings of Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are possibly the most famous and admired works of art in the world.
His notebooks contained detailed designs for inventions that were centuries ahead of his time, including a bicycle, parachute, helicopter, military tank and paddle-boat.
Scientists from the J Craig Venter Institute in the US and the University of Florence are currently examining privately owned paintings from da Vinci’s era to develop techniques for DNA extraction and analysis.
Other institutions participating in the Leonardo Project include the Institut de Paleontologie Humaine in Paris, France, The Rockefeller University in New York City and the Laboratory of Genetic Identification at the University of Grenada, Spain.
This week the participating experts met at the headquarters of the Tuscan Regional Council in Florence.
Eugenio Giani, president of the Regional Council, said: “Scientifically, the chance to create, through new research and technology, a new vision of the life of Leonardo starting from a study of DNA is very important.”
A key aspect of the project will be trying to solve the mystery of the final resting place of da Vinci, who died in 1519. The scientists hope to test the authenticity of Leonardo’s “presumed remains” beneath the stone floor of the chapel of Saint-Hubert at the Chateau d’Amboise, in France.
There are parallels with the identification of King Richard III’s remains after they were exhumed from beneath a Leicester car park.