Leonardo Da Vinci may have suffered from a recurrent stroke that considerably reduced his motor activity in the last two years of his life and eventually caused his death, according to a historic viewpoint published in the June issue of The Lancet Neurology.
The study, carried out by two Italian medical doctors, examined ancient sources to reconstruct Da Vinci's health from 1517 until his death in 1519 aged 67.
"The diary of Louis d'Aragona's journey, written by Antonio de Beatis, tells us that Leonardo had a right hand's paralysis when he was 65 years old," Antonio Perciaccante, at the department of medicine of Gorizia hospital, told Discovery News.
"Nevertheless, the ancient document reports Da Vinci continued to paint, draw, and teach," he added.
The Hunt for Da Vinci's Descendants
Perciaccante and co-author Alessia Coralli, at the department of surgery of Civita Castellana hospital, noted the account indicates that Leonardo suffered from a right hand's paralysis with partial physical, but not cognitive, consequences.
Da Vinci's health must have however deteriorated, following the report of 15th-century painter, architect and writer Giorgio Vasari.
In his 1550 book "Lives of the Artists," Vasari described Leonardo as a sick and bedridden man, unable to stand up without being "supported by the arms of his servants and his friends."
Oldest Handmade Skull Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci
"He was ill for many months," Vasari wrote.
According to Perciaccante and Coralli, something happened that compromized the general autonomy of the Renaissance genius.
"Our hypothesis is that a first stroke caused the hand's paralysis. Other stroke events then followed, deteriorating Da Vinci's health and motor activity," Perciaccante said.
Photos: Da Vinci's Inventions
Da Vinci died in Amboise, France, on May 2, 1519, in the arms of King Francis I of France, according to Vasari. He attributed the death to a "paroxysm."
"The term refers to a sudden attack or increase of symptoms of a disease that often recurs. Thus, it can adequately describe a stroke," Perciaccante said.
According to the researchers, the hypothesis of a recurrent stroke is supported by medical literature.
Da Vinci's ‘Magi' Hides Master's Original Vision: Photos
"It is known that people who survive a stroke have an increased risk to experience a further stroke," Perciaccante said.
He noted that nearly one out of five patients experience a stroke within 90 days of the first attack.
"We do not know whether there were genetic risk factors in Leonardo's family. In this view, it could be interesting the study of his newly identified descendants," Perciaccante said.