The Art History Newsletter

Leonardo’s Syndactyly Hands

by | 3 April 2007 | Renaissance

Maggie Reid writes in the Yale Daily News: “Ben Sweeney became interested in the idea that da Vinci may have had a misshapen left hand, a theory that he said has been overlooked for 500 years by the art world. Sweeney, a real estate broker in San Diego … developed the idea that the third and fourth fingers of da Vinci’s left hand were connected. This condition is called syndactyly, in which two or more digits are fused together. Sweeney said that art historians have noticed issues with da Vinci’s hand in his sketches before, but it was always written off as the result of a stroke da Vinci had late in life … ‘Whenever the art world came across a misfigured hand, they considered it a mistake,’ Sweeney said. ‘In my opinion, da Vinci didn’t make mistakes. He’s definitely portraying syndactyly hands’ … But while some scientific experts agree with Sweeney’s theory, the art world is less open to the idea. Some art historians have said that until conclusive evidence can be found, they see no reason to believe that da Vinci had an anomalous left hand. ‘One art historian told me he never wanted to see me again after hearing my theory,’ Sweeney said. ‘The art world wants to assume beauty over truth, and Leonardo knew that. He understood our mental state, even 500 years ago.’”