The mystery of Leonardo da Vinci’s right Hand

The mystery of Leonardo da Vinci’s right Hand

“You can’t expect him to do any good work anymore, because paralysis has crippled his right Hand,” writes Antonio de Beatis, an assistant to a cardinal in 1517 by Leonardo da Vinci. The painter and scholar was at this time 65 years old, almost two years later, he died.

What led to the paralysis of da Vinci’s right Hand, today, some 500 years later, no longer with safety be clarified. Nevertheless, the Italian Doctors Davide Lazzeri and Carlo Rossi are now trying to solve the mystery of what you report in the “Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine”.

So far, it was assumed that the painter had suffered a stroke. This can lead to permanent paralysis on one side of the body. Surgeon Lazzeri and nerves doctor Rossi, however, have a different guess. They are based on a portrait (see here) da Vinci has painted the Giovan Ambrogio Figino. It shows the genius of the age. His right Hand juts out from under his clothes, you will appear stiff, the fingers are separated and slightly bent.

In the painting “Heraclitus and Democritus” Giovan Ambrogio Figino, a Greek philosopher with a similar hand position (to the right) in his Da Vinci-portrait

It was damage a nerve?

The attitude does not fit in the diagnosis of stroke, according to the Doctors. Rather, they suspect that da Vinci suffered from a so-called ulnar nerve palsy. It occurs when the ulnar nerve is damaged, what are the finger muscles are severely affected. This leads to a so-called claw hand, which want to recognize the Doctors in the portrait. The nerve palsy can be a result of an accident.

Da Vinci drew, in spite of the impairment of his right Hand, more – many estimates suggest he did this all his life with the left Hand. However, the paralysis stopped him from Painting with brush and Palette, because he had always used his right Hand, so the doctors. For this reason, some of his late works remained unfinished.