Leonardo da Vinci’s mother was a slave trafficked to Italy, an expert on the Renaissance artist has claimed.
In a new novel, a dramatized account of her life, Renaissance scholar Carlo Vecce writes that Leonardo’s mother, Catherine, was originally from the Caucasus but was sold into slavery in Italy.
Entitled “The Smile of Catherine, Leonardo’s Mother”, the book was inspired by a discovery that Vecce – a professor at the University of Naples and an expert on the Old Master – made in the State Archives in Florence in 2019, when working on the celebration of 500th anniversary of the death of the great polymath.
There, he finds a previously unknown document, which he says dates from the fall of 1452 and is signed by the man known as the master’s father, which frees a slave named Catherine from her mistress, Monna Ginevra. The date, which was a few months after Leonardo’s birth, and the fact that Leonardo’s father signed it, struck Vacce as proof that this woman was Leonardo’s mother.
The document describes the freed slave as born in the Caucus area of Central Asia and trafficked to Italy.
Two years earlier, according to the same document, Ginevra had employed Catherine as a nurse to a Florentine knight.
“In the end I managed to find evidence for the most likely hypotheses. We cannot say that it is certain, we do not seek the absolute truth”, Vecce, professor of Italian literature at the University of Naples “L’Orientale”, told CNN.
Vecce planned to continue his research in Moscow, where he felt sure he could find even more documentation about the Italian slave trade and Catherine’s life. But the Covid-19 pandemic halted his travel plans and instead, he said, he became “obsessed” with history.
“The further I went, the more the story made sense. The story of a slave who was kidnapped at the age of 13 and freed at the age of 25, a year after Leonardo was born. She spent the best years of her life as a slave,” he said.