By Jessica Herbst
A diagnostic campaign on Leonardo da Vinci’s Landscape 8P, conducted by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in April of 2019, found conclusive evidence that da Vinci was ambidextrous. Researchers also found a hidden landscape on the back of his drawing.
Experts consider 8P, a landscape owned by the Uffizi named after its inventory number, to be da Vinci’s first known drawing. It is dated back to Aug. 5, 1473.
The diagnostic examination of Landscape 8P took several weeks to complete. The research was conducted by a team of experts using experimental equipment and techniques under the supervision of the art historian and Opificio official, Cecilia Frosinini.
The opportunity to directly analyze the artifact allowed the experts to shed light on numerous mysteries found within the drawing. The drawing bears two inscriptions that serve as proof of da Vinci’s ambidexterity.
Comparing the makeup of the two inscriptions, the researchers concluded that da Vinci used his left hand to write an inscription in mirror writing on the front of the drawing and his right hand to write an inscription in ordinary writing on the back of the drawing. Both inscriptions share key features that demonstrate da Vinci’s unique style. This discovery sheds more light onto da Vinci’s techniques, habits and skills as a writer.
“Leonardo was born left-handed but was re-educated at a very early age to use his right hand. From an observation of his handwriting, including the inscriptions on this drawing, it is clear that his writing as a right-hander was both cultivated and well-formed,” art historian Cecilia Frosinini said.
The researchers also found that Landscape 8P is composed of two different landscapes superimposed onto each other. The front landscape depicts a central river scene with a stream and two banks connected by a bridge, as well as a jagged rock formation on the left. His use of carbon black to produce the landscape reveals that da Vinci used this material earlier than previously thought.
The back landscape is composed of leadpoint drawings, a rosette and several geometric motifs, that are visible under infrared light. A series of mysterious incisions were also found in this drawing, made from a colorless stylus that did not leave any colored traces of leadpoint. This indicates that the drawing was intended for everyday use rather than as a finalized work of art.
Extensive and non-invasive examinations using a substantial number of technologies and scientific models were required to reveal the secrets of Landscape 8P. Techniques involved infrared inspection through a highly advanced model designed by the National Institute of Optics, a fluorescent x-ray system in which the prototype was built by Florence University’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics, a portable detector of organic materials devised by the Institute of Applied Physics, and extremely high resolution photodiagnosis supported by computer processing.