(from Science, July 25, 2008)
Fingerprints on a painting from the studio of Leonardo da Vinci show the touch of the master himself--and confirm that the artist had Arab ancestors, Italian researchers say.
A team led by Luigi Capasso, an anthropologist at the Museum of Biomedical Sciences in Chieti, Italy, is using infrared light to study prints on The Martyrdom of Saint Catherine and La Madone de Laroque--paintings attributed to members of Leonardo's atelier in Amboise, France. The artist often used his fingers in place of brushes, diluting colors with saliva. But experts couldn't tell whether any of the fingerprints on the paintings were his.
The researchers have now matched one of the prints to a fingerprint on Lady with an Ermine, known to be by Leonardo. Some scholars say Leonardo's mother was an Arab slave, and Capasso and colleagues at the Museo Ideale in Vinci says their research confirms the artist's Middle Eastern origins. The print, from his left index finger, has a Y-shaped pattern shared by 60% of Middle Easterners, says Emiliano Carnieri, a paleontologist at the University of Palermo in Italy. Fingerprints, like blood group or skin color, can help determine a person's ancestral origins, Carnieri says.