The medical condition behind Leonardo da Vinci’s masterful talent

Stare into the eyes of the Mona Lisa painting for several seconds. While doing so, walk from one side to the other. If you did not stop looking at the eyes of this mysterious woman, you probably noticed that she follows your gaze wherever you go. You probably did not imagine that this great element inside Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous work may be the effect of a curious disease.

At the time, it was believed that this renowned Italian polymath, who conquered the Renaissance through his works, inventions, experiments, etc., had achieved the effect of applying different dimensions to his paintings thanks to his fascinating talent.

However, Professor Christopher Tyler from the University of London analyzed six Renaissance artworks by Da Vinci, which proved that the Florentine possibly suffered from a disorder or disease called exotropia.

By applying techniques used by optometrists with their patients, the professor discovered that the eyes of the people depicted in the paintings were misaligned. Tyler concludes that considering that Da Vinci constructed the images from his vision, it can be surmised that he possibly had a mild case of exotropia.

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What is exotropia, and what level did Leonardo da Vinci suffer from?

Exotropia is a vision anomaly characterized by one eye maintaining a different alignment than the other. Usually, the eyes work together to create “correct” vision, and when you have exotropia, one eye is deviated outward. Shira Robbins, professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, explains that people with exotropia often rely on information from other environments to complete their understanding of the world around them. According to Robbins:

“What happens in some people is that when they only use one eye, they develop other cues in addition to traditional depth perception. This is to understand where things are in space, looking at color and shadow in a way that most of us don’t see.”

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Mona Lisa: a mixture of talent and illness?

In this sense, if Leonardo da Vinci’s works such as The Mona Lisa or The Vitruvian Man follow us everywhere, it is because of this mild affliction. The great works of this artist prove that he saw the world from different dimensions.

The excellent technique that captures our gaze from different angles is now the artistic characteristic of Da Vinci and artists such as Picasso or Rembrandt (who are also believed to have had exotropia). But beyond these hypotheses, the perception he transmitted in his works is a unique and three-dimensional vision that not everyone can develop.

Leonardo da Vinci was, and still is, one of the greatest geniuses of all time. With or without exotropia, his artistic skills were fascinating. A legacy that teaches us that each person looks at the world through their own spectrum.

Text and photos courtesy of Ecoosfera