On Leonardo's 556th birthday, 12. April 2008, the following article appeared in "The Guardian", an English newspaper: "Da Vinci's mother was a slave, Italian study claims", in which two claims were put forward: 1. according to Francesco Cianchi Leonardo da Vinci's mother was a slave, and 2. according to another Italian academic a fingerprint of the famous painter would show a configuration which can only be found in Arabs.
As a historian I can`t agree with the first claim. If Leonardo da Vinci was a son by a slave, he would never have been accepted as a grandchild by his grandfather Antonio da Vinci. Leonardo da Vinci's mother came from a prosperous family. Her father was probably a lawyer. But she was not a Florentine lady, therefore Ser Piero da Vinci did not want to marry her.
As a biologist I had difficulties with the second claim from the beginning. I believe it to be impossible to find out the race of a person from his or her fingerprint. Furthermore this article does not state, on which painting Leonardo da Vinci's print was found. Was this painting produced by him, and if yes, by him alone or in collaboration with one or more of his students, assistants or colleagues? To be brief: can we be certain, that this fingerprint is from the great master at all? Since I have finished my biology studies 23 years ago and I am perhaps not familiar with the latest developments in genetic research, I asked a specialist for fingerprints, Brevet Sergeant John Clements from the South Australia Police, whether it is possible to infer from a fingerprint the Arab descent of Leonardo da Vinci. I would like to share his response with all my readers here: