Mona Lisa painter Leonardo da Vinci was only half-Italian and his mother was a slave who was trafficked to Italy from the Caucasus region, according to new research.
Carlo Vecce, who studies the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci, unveiled the findings in Florence at the launch of his new book.
Experts have mostly agreed that Leonardo da Vinci’s mother was named Caterina and the artist was born in 1452.
His father would be a young Florentine notary called Ser Piero da Vinci.
Beyond these details, there was little evidence to support a number of theories about Da Vinci’s background.
But now Mr Vecce has claimed to have found a previously unknown document written by Ser Piero da Vinci in the state archives in Florence.
The document is dated November 1452 – when the future painter and icon of Italian culture would have been six months old – and is an act of the liberation of a slave called Caterina by Monna Ginevra.
Monna was the wife of a “Florentine adventurer”, who owned slaves from the Black Sea region.
Mr Vecce said the document was written by the same man ‘who loved Caterina’ when she was a slave and gave her a child and helped free her.
He told NBC News, “When I saw this document, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“I never gave much credence to the theory that she was a slave to the stranger.
“So I spent months trying to prove that the Caterina in this deed was not Leonardo’s mother, but in the end all the documents I found pointed in that direction, and I have come to the fore.”
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He added: “At the time, many slaves were called Caterina, but this was the only act of liberation of a slave named Caterina Ser Piero written in his entire long career.
“Furthermore, the document is full of small errors and omissions, a sign that he may have been nervous when he wrote it, because impregnating someone else’s slave was a crime. “
The Caucasus region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea includes parts of southern Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.