The Atlantic

The Many, Many Theories About Leonardo da Vinci

The artist, inventor, and all-around Renaissance man has been dead for half a millennium, but there’s no end to the wild sleuthing about him and his work.
Source: Corbis Historical / Getty

Leonardo da Vinci died at the age of 67 on May 2, 1519, at the small manor house in the Loire Valley given to him by King Francis I of France. He was buried nearby in the church of the Château d’Amboise, which was demolished in the early 19th century. An excavation decades later turned up bones that were believed to be Leonardo’s. An inscription notes carefully that the site holds the artist’s “presumed remains.” The acknowledgment of uncertainty is a mark of quiet candor, and unusual in this case: Leonardo enthusiasts are not famous for their restraint. Give them a small mystery and a bit of wiggle room, and the theories come quickly.

We will be hearing a lot about Leonardo this year, the 500th anniversary of his death. Exhibits are being readied in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. In May, the Queen’s Gallery, at Buckingham Palace, will display Leonardo drawings from the Royal Collection (which owns about 500 of them). A major exhibition at the Louvre, which is home to five Leonardo paintings, including the Mona Lisa, will open in October.

So a wealth of Leonardo will

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