Researchers Find DNA, Bacteria on Leonardo da Vinci’s Drawings


New research has identified fungi, bacteria, and human DNA on some of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous drawings, including Autoritratto and Uomo della Bitta. According to a report by the Spanish newspaper El País, it’s possible that some of the particles have been on the artworks since their creation in the Renaissance.

A team of historians, microbiologists, art restorers, and others have been at work identifying the materials present on da Vinci’s drawings. Guadalupe Piñar, a microbiologist at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences of Vienna, told El País that the drawings “housed a large amount of genetic material, what we call a bio-archive.”

“Until now, it had always been thought that fungi were dominant in microbial communities that colonized cultural heritage objects made on paper or with paper support,” Piñar told the publication.

The researchers have uncovered on the artworks bacteria that lives on human skin, traces of a virus that is linked to pneumonia, and a microorganism that lives in intestines. The full analyses of these findings have been published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, which states that “results showed a relatively high contamination with human DNA and a surprising dominance of bacteria over fungi.”

This study is not the only story related to da Vinci’s drawings to surface in recent days. Last week, the scholar Annalisa Di Maria asserted that a newly discovered red chalk drawing of Jesus Christ can be attributed to Leonardo.