500-year-old skull is da Vinci’s macabre handiwork (Wired UK)


Dr K. Becker


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The oldest handmade skull in the world is the macabre handiwork of
Leonardo da Vinci, according to the findings of a Belgian
researcher.

A recent article by Stefaan Missinne, who lives in Vienna, lists
several identifying factors which link the miniature,
anatomically-detailed skull to the great Italian artist.

A German couple discovered the hollow, jawless curiosity in 1987
while browsing items in an antique shop. Ten years later, one of
the owners met with a French skull specialist named Dr Roger Saban
who was the first to suggest that the object could be by da Vinci
himself. Saban noticed that the skull was uncannily similar to an
unpublished drawing of a jawless skull by da Vinci which is held in
the Royal Collection at Windsor. Missinne’s own investigations have
corroborated Saban’s hypothesis that the same craftsman is behind
both works.

Not only does the skull match the da Vinci sketch, it appears to
be made of a special stone mixture known as “mistioni” which was
invented by da Vinci and with which he made a variety of treasures,
including artificial pearls.

Missinne told Wired.co.uk that there is no doubt in his mind as
to the creator of the skull. “All roads lead to Leonardo,” he said
as he described the piece which is unusually small and cold to the
touch.

The skull is particularly curious since it appears to be that of
a 50-year-old male with a number of deformities such as a bulging
forehead and hump above the nose. It possesses an “overall
scurrilous impression” according to the article.

But the skull is detailed enough to show the optic canals which
connect the eye sockets to the cranal cavity, which houses the
brain. Missinne suggests therefore that the skull was part of da
Vinci’s search for the “Sensus Communis”, or seat of the soul.

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In later life, however, the author postulates that the somewhat
morbid object could have taken on a more personal significance for
da Vinci. “It may well be that Leonardo, who was known to be
melancholic, […] used this miniature skull in his late years as his
personal sorrow
stone
,” wrote Missinne.

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13 June 2014 | 10:41 am – Source: wired.co.uk
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