DNA from Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings could be used to digitally recreate his face and confirm exactly where he was buried after his death in 1519.
Researchers are going to attempt to recover hairs and flakes of skin from within his paintings and notebooks, which could be used to construct how the Italian polymath’s face looked.
They plan to use advanced genetic analysis techniques to determine his eye and hair colour, as well as face shape and skin tone.
They believe they could also discover clues about his lifestyle and states of health during his lifetime.
A comparison will be made between the hairs and remains located at Chateau d’Amboise in the Loire Valley, which are presumed to be those of Da Vinci.
Specialists from the J Craig Venter Institute in California, which pioneered human genome sequencing, are leading the project.
Their first tests are due to take place on the Adoration of the Magi painting, which is being restored in Florence, Italy.
Any DNA recovered from his works will be compared to known living relatives – as well as to DNA recovered from the graves of his parents.
The shape of their skulls will also help the researchers to recreate his face, along with portrait paintings of the artist from his contemporaries.
Brunetto Chiarelli, from the International Institute for Humankind Studies at the University of Florence, said: “We stand to gain not only greater historical knowledge of Leonardo but possibly a reconstruction of his genetic profile, which could provide insights into other individuals with remarkable qualities.”