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Discovery of Leonardo Da Vinci's Studio


It has been 486 years since the man often hailed as the archetypal Renaissance man died. Leonardo da Vinci was a creative genius in art, architecture, engineering and invention. But very little is known about where da Vinci might have lived and worked.

For 2,000 years, the city of Florence, on the Arno River in the Tuscany region of Italy has been known for it's famous artisans: Dante, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Their workshops were long ago damaged or forgotten.

But a recent discovery by researchers at the Santissima Annunziata Monastery may be the studio and rooms where Leonardo da Vinci lived and worked in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Art historian Roberto Manescalchi and his team uncovered a hidden staircase and doorway from the monastery that leads to the rooms in the adjoining Italian Institute of Military Geography.

The walls are covered in well-preserved frescoes that were hidden for centuries. Mr. Manescalchi says this room is where Leonardo da Vinci studied birds and flight. "For the first time, in this case, we see birds which are absolutely dynamic, animals which are absolutely vivid and which remind us of the study done by Leonardo on birds in flight," he said.

The mystery, which ties Leonardo da Vinci to his muse Mona Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine merchant, may also be revealed in the newly-discovered rooms. Historians believe the time da Vinci lived in the rooms coincides with the creation of his most famous painting, the Mona Lisa. He may have met the merchant's wife in the church of the Santissima Annunziata where the family had a chapel.

But Professor Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci, is more cautious. He says, "The fact that (the Mona Lisa) might have been depicted inside the Annunziata can't be excluded. There is nothing which confirms this, except for the fact that her family had a relationship with the convent. So there are reasons to think that Mona Lisa herself might have visited that church or that religious place."

The rooms where Leonardo da Vinci's workshop was uncovered are part of a complex that once was used by the friars of the Servi di Maria, who ran it as lodgings for lay pilgrims and guests.