Leonardo da Vinci is known for its intricate, nuanced works of art and advanced technological ideas. But a new study reveals another level of complexity in his drawings: a hidden world of small life forms on his works of art.
The findings, researchers say, could help build a microbiome “catalog” of works of art. Each of the pieces had a sufficiently unique collection of microbes that researchers could identify it again later purely by studying its microscopic biology. And the microbiomes of the drawings had enough elements in common to help researchers detect counterfeits based on differences in their microbiomes or even authentic drawings stored in different conditions over the centuries. Researchers have also shown that da Vinci̵
Researchers examined the microscopic biological material, living and dead, in seven of the master’s “emblematic” drawings and found an unexpected variety of bacteria,, fungus and human DNA. Most of this material probably came across the sketches long after da Vinci’s death 501 years ago, so the DNA (or most of it) probably came from other people who worked with the drawings over the centuries, not from the polymate itself. . But newly discovered biological materials have a history.
The biggest surprise, the researchers write, is the high concentration of bacteria in the drawings, especially compared to fungi. Past studies have shown that fungi tend to dominate the microbiome of paper objects such as these drawings, but in this case there was an unusually large amount of bacteria from humans and insects (probably flies that have climbed on the paper at some point).
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“In general, insects, restoration workers and geographic location appear to have left an invisible mark on the drawings,” the researchers said. said in a statement. “[But] it is difficult to say whether any of these pollutants date back to the time when Leonardo da Vinci sketched his drawings. “
Most of this DNA probably comes from people who rebuilt it starting in the 15th century. The team did not analyze the genetic material in the level of detail needed to see who it came from.
The researchers used a new tool called Nanopore, a method of genetic sequencing that quickly breaks down and analyzes genetic material to make a detailed study of various biological materials. The same researchers have studied artistic microbiomes in the past to determine how statues were preserved that were recovered by smugglers while they were hiding. From now on, they said, this technique could reveal new details in the history of even well-studied works of art.
The study was published in the journal on Friday (November 20th) Limits in microbiology.
Originally published in Live Science.