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  • Serena Kramer

Leonardo da Vinci — Master of the Brush and Pen

Updated: 3 days ago

Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci was not only an incredibly talented painter, but also considered a skilled calligrapher and penman? (In this case, we are referring to 'calligrapher' as one who has beautiful handwriting.) In fact, many of his personal notebooks and drawings are filled with beautifully written letters and notes, showing his attention to detail and precision not just in art, but also in the art of handwriting. Da Vinci's handwriting was so distinctive that it has been studied and analyzed by historians and calligraphers for centuries.

During Leonardo da Vinci's time, the popular handwriting style was a form of handwriting called "chancery cursive," which was commonly used in legal and official documents in the 15th century. This style of writing was known for its legibility and consistency, with each letter being clearly defined and spaced evenly at a 45° angle. It was often written with a quill pen and ink, which allowed for a range of line widths and variations in stroke thickness. Despite the popularity of chancery cursive, however, da Vinci's unique handwriting style stood out for its distinctive slant, spacing, and use of mirror writing.

Example of Chancery Cursive / Papal Letter to Christian II of Denmark, 21 April 1518 (Royal Archives)

And now, new evidence shows that he was also ambidextrous! Experts at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence recently conducted tests on one of da Vinci's earliest works, a detailed landscape drawing created when he was just 21 years old. What they discovered was that da Vinci had written two inscriptions on the drawing - one normally with his right hand, and one backward using his left hand, inscribed from a reflection in a mirror. While it's still unclear why da Vinci often used mirror writing, most scholars agree that Leonardo's unique writing style was a result of him being predominantly left-handed. As a result, he likely used the opposite hemisphere of his brain, which caused his movements to mirror those of right-handed writers. This fascinating discovery sheds new light on the many talents of one of the greatest artists of all time!

Leonardo da Vinci's Mirror Writing from the Vitruvian Man Date 1492 / Photography by Luc Viatour /


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