Eye Condition May Have Helped Make Da Vinci a Master

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” depicts a half-length figure of Christ with one hand raised in blessing and the other holding an orb.

(CN) – Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci excelled in various fields of art and science, but a new study analyzes several works of art to determine if his perception of the world was altered due to an eye condition.

If the Italian sculptor, architect and artist of the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” was crossed-eyed, it could explain his ability to depict three-dimensional features of faces and objects on flat spaces like a canvas, according to the study published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Strabismus, an eye condition where the pupils do not line up with each other, could explain how da Vinci viewed the world. According to the study, the Dutch artist Rembrandt also showed signs of the same condition.

The study examined six works related to da Vinci, including two sculptures, two oil paintings and two drawings.

A sculpture of David by Italian artist Andrea del Verrochio is reputed to be a depiction of da Vinci, who was a pupil at the time. A second work also by Verrochio is a terracotta bust called “Young Warrior” comes from the period when da Vinci was known to be a model in the studio.

Study author Christopher Tyler from the Division of Optometry and Vision Sciences at the School of Health with City University in London also measured the irises, pupils and eyelids of four other works, each from da Vinci. Those included “Vitruvian Man,” “Young John the Baptist,” “Salvator Mundi” and a likely self-portrait of da Vinci in old age.

In each of the works, there is evidence of a crossed-eyed figure, with one eye slightly aimed outward.

Aside from the self-portrait, which features the artist at an angle, Tyler concludes da Vinci had intermittent exotropia, a form of eye misalignment where one eye turns outward.

“This condition is therefore rather convenient for the painter, since viewing the world with one eye allows direct comparison with the flat image being drawn or painted,” writes Tyler.

Da Vinci died in the city of Amboise, France, in 1519 at age 67. Historians say only 15 works either by or in large part from da Vinci remain today.

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