Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpieces reveal the hidden world of bacteria and fungi

Leonardo Da Vinci is known for its detailed works of art and advanced technological ideas. A new study has revealed another level of complexity of his drawings: the hidden world of tiny life forms in his works.

According to scientists, the data obtained can help to create a “catalog” of microbiom for works of art. Each of the samples taken from Da Vinci’s paintings contained a rather unique collection of microorganisms. These microbiomes in the paintings shared enough key elements to help researchers discover fakes based on differences in their composition or even the original drawings, which have been stored in different environments for centuries.

The researchers concluded that Da Vinci’s drawings had a much different microbiome than expected, with more bacteria and human DNA – probably the result of centuries of processing by restorers and others. There were also microbes that are known to cause paper deterioration over time, which shows why the efforts of these restorers were necessary.

The researchers studied microscopic biological material, alive and dead, on seven “symbolic” drawings of the master, and found an unexpected variety of bacteria, fungi and human DNA. Most of this material probably came from the sketches after Da Vinci’s death 501 years ago, so DNA (or at least the bulk of it) probably belongs to other people who have worked with the drawings for centuries rather than the master himself.