"Salvator Mundi," a painting recently attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, may provide evidence that the artist had an eye condition called strabismus, according to a new article.
Credit: Image courtesy of JAMA Network® © 2018
Leonardo da Vinci may have literally seen the world differently.
The famous Renaissance artist may have had an eye condition that helped him better represent the 3D world on a flat surface when drawing and painting, a new report suggests.
The report, which analyzed six works of art that are probably Leonardo's portraits or self-portraits, suggests that the artist may have had strabismus or crossed eyes, a condition in which a person's eyes do not look in the same direction at the same time. .
In some cases of strabismus, the vision in the "wandering" eye is suppressed, which gives the person a "monocular" view in 2D that could be advantageous for painting and drawing, wrote report author Christopher Tyler, a neuroscientist visual and professor in the city Division of Optometry and Visual Sciences of the University of London in the United Kingdom. [Leonardo Da Vinci’s 10 Best Ideas]
Therefore, having strabismus "may have contributed to Da Vinci's exceptional ability to capture space on the flat canvas," Tyler wrote in the Oct. 18 issue of OAMA ophthalmology journal JAMA.
An artistic eye
Some studies have found that visual artists are more likely than non-artists to have problems with their stereoscopic vision (depth perception with two eyes), such as strabismus. And research has shown that some famous painters, including Rembrandt van Rijn and Pablo Picasso, had strabismus, based on analysis of their eyes in self-portraits.
However, there are few confirmed self-portraits of Leonardo da Vinci, which makes it difficult to assess if he had the condition.
In the new report, Tyler analyzed six works of art that are believed to be portraits or self-portraits of the artist, or images that may reflect their similarity.
For example, it is believed that the sculptures "David" and "Young Warrior" by Andrea del Verrocchio are based on Leonardo, who was apprenticed to the oldest artist. Three other works of art included in the study, "The Young John the Baptist," "Salvator Mundi," and "Vitruvian Man," all by Leonardo, are generally not considered Leonardo's self-portraits, but may have captured part of their appearance. Said Tyler wrote. (Leonardo himself said, "[The soul] it guides the painter's arm and makes it reproduce, since it seems to the soul that this is the best way to represent a human being. "Finally, the analysis also included a self-portrait of Leonardo in his old age.
When analyzing the position of the pupils in the eyes of these works of art, Tyler discovered that the eyes tended to have exotropia, a type of strabismus in which one or both eyes rotate outward. The presence of exotropia was more pronounced in portraits than in self-portraits. One explanation for this may be that Leonardo had "intermittent exotropia," which means that the condition of the artist's eye was not constant, Tyler said. For example, the condition may have been more severe when Leonardo was relaxed but corrected when he was attentive or focused on a specific object.
It is important to keep in mind that the analysis presents a hypothesis and can not prove that Leonardo had this condition.
Still, Tyler noted that having intermittent exotropia would be "quite convenient for the painter, since seeing the world with one eye allows a direct comparison with the flat image that is being drawn or painted."
And if Leonardo's strabismus was intermittent, he could also have switched to seeing the world stereoscopically, Tyler said.
Originally published in Living science.