35 Living Relatives of Leonardo da Vinci, Including Franco Zeffirelli, Tracked Down

Leonardo's remains have been missing since the 16th century.

Leonardo da Vinci, Self-Portrait (1512–15).

After 43 years of research, Italian historians claim they have found the living relatives of Leonardo da Vinci, including the film director, and Academy Award nominee, Franco Zeffirelli.

Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, and Agnese Sabato, president of the Leonardo da Vinci association, say they have tracked down 35 indirect descendants of the Renaissance master—despite the fact that his remains have been missing since the 16th century.

That meant there was no means for Vezzosi and Sabato to perform DNA tests, so they had to trawl through paper records dating back to the time of Leonardo’s birth.

“Leonardo’s descendants are all living around Florence and nearby villages such as Empoli and Vinci,” Vezzosi told Discovery News.

Film director Franco Zeffirelli, a relation of Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by Alexey Yushenkov, Creative Commons <a href=https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en target="_blank" rel="noopener">Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)</a> license.

Film director Franco Zeffirelli, a relation of Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by Alexey Yushenkov, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license.

They started with a record of the birth of a boy by Leonardo’s grandfather Antonio, with his son Ser Piero listed as the father but no mother’s name given. Although in a note written by Antonio, dated 1457, she is named as Caterina, wife of Achattabriga di Piero del Vaccha da Vinci.

“We checked documents and tombs as far as France and Spain in order to reconstruct the history of Leonardo’s family,” Vezzosi told Discovery News. “We even found a unknown tomb of Leonardo’s family in Vinci.”

Due to the disappearance of his remains, it was previously thought that there was no way to track down Leonardo’s relations, and those named as such were only informed of their connection to the genius polymath days prior to a press conference to announce the results.

Of the names of alleged living descendants that they compiled, the most famous is Zefirelli—the director and producer of operas, films, and television shows, best-known for his superb 1968 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet.

Vezzosi and Sabato also discovered an architect, a policeman, a pastry chef, an accountant, and a retired blacksmith.

“I heard this story about our da Vinci’s blood from my mother, but our family believed it was a legend,” Giovanni Calosi told Discovery News. Calosi, one of the descendants, began collaborating on the project with Vezzosi nine years ago.

“We never gave any importance to those documents, which were lost and sold,”said Calosi. “What we thought was a legend passed down through generations turns out to be the truth.”

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