How would you react if you were told that Leonardo da Vinci was your ancestor? More than thirty people in Italy, including film director Franco Zeffirelli, have found out that they are the living descendants of the Renaissance painter and inventor. Historians Alessandro Vezzosi and Agnese Sabato claim to have reconstructed Leonardo’s genealogy and the lives of some of his descendants, reports the Guardian, by studying documents and estate papers in Italy, France and Spain.
Leonardo’s body was lost in the 16th century, so there is no DNA evidence that Zeffirelli and the others are descended from Leonardo. But several people have recounted family legends about documents and papers with backwards-written script (a hallmark of Leonardo, who famously disguised many of his designs in this way). It is not known if Leonardo ever fathered any children, and his feelings on the topic would suggest he wasn’t in favor of it. “The act of procreation and anything that has any relation to it is so disgusting that human beings would soon die out if there were no pretty faces and sensuous dispositions,” he once wrote in his notebook.