The identity of the mother of Leonardo da Vinci
The identity of the mother of Leonardo da Vinci (Leonardo da Vinci) has always been a mystery. Historians of art for many decades tried to find information about a woman whose illegitimate son was a genius who created the «Mona Lisa». It was known only the name - Katerina, assumed that she was a peasant or even a slave from North Africa. There were other, even more incredible theories.
Now, almost six centuries later, one of the leading specialists in the biography of Leonardo gave a much more complete description of his mother, having examined new and previously insufficiently studied documents.
According to Martin Kemp, Honorary Professor of Art History at Oxford University, Leonardo’s mother was Caterina di Meo Lippi, a poor orphan who was seduced at age 15 by a respectable lawyer. She lived with her grandmother in a dilapidated house about a mile from the town of Vinci (Vinci).
Kemp will present the entire evidence base of his theory in the book Mona Lisa: People and the Painting, which will be released in a month, in June 2017. The work is written in collaboration with Dr. Giuseppe Pallanti, Economist and art historian. Recently found documents also shed light on the identity of the famous model, Lisa del Giocondo (Lisa del Giocondo), and her husband, Francesco (Francesco). The latter, by the way, turned out to be not at all a noble Florentine silk merchant, as previously thought, but a «steep businessman» who traded Madeira sugar, skin from Ireland, all sorts of property and, according to Kemp, slaves and slaves.
The joint research of Kemp and Pallantini disputes also the place where Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452 - a house in the town of Anchiano, two miles from the city of Vinci. Consisting of two adjacent buildings, the house became a place of pilgrimage for tourists, but documents show that art lovers visit the wrong place. This, most likely was the house of his grandfather on his father’s line in Vinci, where Leonardo grew up.
«Everything that is connected with Leonardo is the subject of absolutely exceptional public interest. So any proven details of his life will be of great importance now and in the future, «Kemp said.
The new findings are made from financial documents of the XV century, found in the archives of Vinci and Florence. They became a real «golden residential» evidence base for facts about the life of a genius, unnoticed earlier by other art historians.
A lot of facts surfaced thanks to tax documents. As Kemp explains: «Tuscany very early established a system of levying a property tax, the rates of which depended on the value of real estate. So this is an absolutely fantastic record of that time, because everyone had to file a declaration... Of course, many referred to their poverty, they claimed that the house was being destroyed. Then the inspectors came to them. «
«In the case of interest to us, the inspectors were convinced that Katerina’s father, who apparently did not work anywhere, had already disappeared from the sagging house, unable to pay taxes. In the future, apparently, he died young. So begins the sad story of Katerina, «- says Kemp.
Katerina had a stepbrother Papo (Papo) and a grandmother who died shortly before 1451, leaving them without funds and support, except for her uncle, dilapidated house and cattle.
According to Kemp, she was tempted by the 25-year-old Piero da Vinci, an ambitious lawyer working in Florence. The documents say that he took a short vacation in July 1451, then, according to Kemp, and was conceived by Leonardo.
However, the lawyer was to marry and Kemp believes that his family, as compensation, allocated a modest dowry for Katerina. This could explain how, without money or possessions, she so quickly married Antonio di Piero Buti, a local farmer from her «circle.»
Leonardo grew up in his grandfather’s house, Antonio da Vinci. According to Kemp, this was a common practice for that time. In the tax declaration of 1457, Antonio indicates family members, including the illegitimate son Pierrot, «born of him and Catherine.»
The documents also tell us that Katerina raised her second son, as well as four daughters, just a few miles from her first child. There is also a further connection between the lawyer and Kateryna: Piero conducted several minor legal deals for her husband.
Kemp hopes that his work will put an end to «utterly implausible myths» created about the life of Leonardo. For example, the popular theory that Katerina was a slave. The emergence of this version is due to the fact that, at that time, Katerina’s name was often given to slaves from other countries.
Kemp admitted that his research would plunge into the «confusion» of the Vinci authorities, who turned the house in Anciano into a tourist attraction. «When I first arrived there, there were just stone walls... now there are multimedia displays, car parks and even cosmetic repairs,» says Professor Kemp.
His book also ridicules historians who tried to make a name for themselves on new theories about the identity of the true Mona Lisa, starting from the idea that it was Leonardo himself in a skirt, and ending with the assumption that she was a representative of the «ancient profession».
Why are so many important documents ignored so far?
«I will never be surprised by the fact that the most obvious steps have not been made so far,» Kemp said. «The archives have not been studied, because in modern scientific circles you need to get a quick result, rather than rummage through tons of materials without any guarantees for luck.»
Professor of History and Art, Oxford University, Martin Kemp, has a personal website: martinjkemp.com
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Pallanti and Kemp are top researchers on Leonardo Da Vinci. That Anchiano was not the right place of birth of Leonardo Da Vinci is known since 1933.
I doubt that the identity of Caterina is the one indicated, it seems that the age do not match that indicated in two documents already known about her.