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Add Leonardo da Vinci to List of Famous Lefties

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In May, the world will mark 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci.

Art galleries and museums are preparing shows to honor the life and works of the artist they call Leonardo, who died in France on May 2, 1519. He is remembered as one of the greatest artists and creative thinkers of all time. Among his most famous paintings are The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.

Art historian Letizia Montalbano studies 'Il Paesaggio' by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinc
Art historian Letizia Montalbano studies 'Il Paesaggio' by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinc

Recently, researchers were studying what they think is da Vinci's earliest-known artwork. They used special lighting to study the work and discovered there were two images, not one. One drawing was on the back of the piece, which is dated August 5, 1473.

Landscape, human figures and handwriting on the back side of 'Il Paesaggio' by Leonardo da Vinci revealed through infrared scanning
Landscape, human figures and handwriting on the back side of 'Il Paesaggio' by Leonardo da Vinci revealed through infrared scanning

The drawing on the front, made when Leonardo was 21 years old, shows a river valley and a castle outside the city of Florence. There is little left of the drawing on the back, perhaps because it was rubbed off. Only a bridge over a river can be seen. But there is writing on both sides.

Infrared light is shone onto the 'Il Paesaggio' by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci
Infrared light is shone onto the 'Il Paesaggio' by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci

The writing on the front gives the date and goes from right to left. Some people would call this "mirror-writing." Leonardo often wrote this way in his notebooks. On the back, the handwriting goes from left to right, and tells about an agreement, probably to produce a work of art.

Cecilia Frosinini is an art historian. She said, "Leonardo was born left-handed, but was taught to write with his right hand from a very young age. By looking at his writings, including from this drawing, one can see his right-handed calligraphy is educated and well done."

Experts compared the two handwriting samples and said they were both made by Leonardo. They show he could write well using both his left hand and his right hand.

The drawing is known as "Landscape 8P" from its number in an art catalog. It will be part of an exhibit at Italy's Uffizi Gallery. The gallery director, Eike Schmidt, said the drawing gives art experts a new way of looking at Leonardo's drawing technique and his abilities in writing.

"It is a real revolution in the field of Leonardo studies," he said.

I'm Jill Robbins.

Silvia Ognibene and Crispian Balmer reported on this story for Reuters. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

museum – n. a building in which objects of artistic, scientific or cultural interest can be seen

gallery – n. a room or building where works of art can be seen

castle – n. a large building, usally with thick walls

calligraphy – n. beautiful writing or handwritten lettering

catalog – n. a complete list of things, such as works of art

exhibit – n. a public showing

Have you ever tried to write with your left hand - if you are right-handed - or your right hand, if you are left-handed? How well could you write? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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