Rare Eye Condition Behind Leonardo Da Vinci’s Genius, Says Study

The condition helped him paint distance and depth of objects on flat surfaces accurately.

Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci - Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, writer, scientist, architect and engineer. Venetian engraving of 16th century.1452-1519 (Culture Club/Getty Images)
Getty Images

A rare eye condition helped Leonardo da Vinci paint distance and depth of objects on flat surfaces with accuracy, according to recently released research. The study says that Da Vinci had intermittent exotropia, a type of eye misalignment in which one eye turns outward, reports CNN. 

“Looking at his work, I noticed the pronounced divergence of the eyes in all of his paintings,” explained the study’s author, Christopher Tyler, a research professor at City University of London and the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, according to CNN. 

Tyler then analyzed the direction of the gaze in six likely self-portraits of Da Vinci, one of the world’s most celebrated painters. He found that some of the work showed signs of exotropia, with the eyes looking at an outward angle. The exotropia would allow the painter to see the world from a different angle.

“What he was looking at would look more like a flat canvas than like for us a three-dimensional screen,” Tyler said, according to CNN. This would have made it “easier to translate things onto the canvas.”

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