LEGENDARY artist Leonardo da Vinci may have had ADHD, according to a shock paper published 500 years after his death.
It’s claimed that da Vinci – who famously left behind a number of unfinished works – had all the hallmarks of someone with ADHD.
Getty – Contributor Leonardo da Vinci is one of the world’s most famous artists
SWNS:South West News Service He is best known for painting the Mona Lisa, regularly ranked as the world’s most famous artwork
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, and is marked by procrastination, the inability to complete tasks, mind-wandering and restlestness.
And those personality traits can all be used to describe Italy’s most famous polymath, according to Professor Marco Catani.
The theory is based on historical accounts of da Vinci’s work practices and behaviour, Catani, of King’s College, explains in a new paper published in the journal BRAIN.
Importantly, as well as explaining da Vinci’s “chronic procrastination”, ADHD could also be a factor in his “extraordinary creativity and achievements”.
Google Cultural Institute Da Vinci regularly began works without finishing them, perhaps most famously with the Adorazione dei Magi
PA:Press Association Da Vinci’s works often took the form of crude sketches
Getty – Contributor Not all of his works were completely polished
“While impossible to make a post-mortem diagnosis for someone who lived 500 years ago, I am confident that ADHD is the most convincing and scientifically plausible hypothesis to explain Leonardo’s difficult in finishing his works,” Catani wrote.
“Historical records show Leonardo spent excessive time planning projects but lacked perseverance.
“ADHD could explain aspects of Leonardo’s temperament and his strange mercurial genius.”
Psychologists classify ADHD as a behavioural disorder, and is typically recognised in childhood.
But it’s now increasingly being diagnosed among adults – including people leading successful lives.
“There is a prevailing misconception that ADHD is typical of misbehaving children with low intelligence, destined for a troubled life,” Catani wrote.
“On the contrary, most of the adults I see in my clinic report having been bright, intuitive children but develop symptoms of anxiety and depression later in life for having failed to achieve their potential.”
PA:Press Association He often illustrated for scientific purposes, like this image of a fetus in the womb
Getty – Contributor This simple sketch by da Vinci is a far cry from the Mona Lisa, and highlights the artist’s varied interests
According to Catani, da Vinci’s difficulties sticking to tasks were “pervasive from childhood”.
Da Vinci was described as being constantly on the go, jumping from task to task.
And like many ADHD sufferers, he slept very little and worked continuously night and day “by alternating rapid cycles of short naps and time awake”.
There is also “indirect evidence” to suggest that Leonardo’s brain was organised in a different way compared to the average person.
The artist was left-handed, likely to be dyslexic and have “dominance for language” in the right-hand side of his brain.
These, according to Catani, are all common traits among people with ADHD.
Who was Leonardo da Vinci?Here’s what you need to know…
Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian artist and inventor who lived in Renassiance Italy
He was born on 14/15 April 1452, and died at the age of 67 on May 2, 1519
The iconic figure is often dubbed a “polymath”, because he excelled at so many fields, including drawing, painting, sculpting, science, music, mathematics, engineering, astronomy, botany, writing and history
Da Vinci is widely considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time
He has also been branded as the father of various fields, including palaeontology, ichnology (the study of trace fossils) and architecture
Several inventions are also credited to da Vinci, including the parachute, helicopter and tank
Da Vinci was described as having an “uenquenchable curiosity” and a “feverishly inventive imagination”
His most famous work is the Mona Lisa, which has been on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris since 1797
He also created The Last Supper, which is the most reproduced religious painting of all time
His painting Salvator Mundi was sold at auction for $450.3million (£355.4million) in November 2017
The sale to Prince Badr bin Abdullah set a new record for the most expensive painting ever sold at a public auction
Da Vinci is believed to have died of a stroke at the manor house Clos Lucé in France in 1519
The paper also notes that he had a “voracious curiosity”, which made him very creative – but also distracted him.
Catani suggests that ADHD can have positive effects: mind-wandering can “fuel creativity and originality”.
But the paper also warns that this is only beneficial in the early stages of creating something new.
It later becomes a hindrance once the creative interest shifts to something else.
“It is incredible that Leonardo considered himself as someone who had failed in life,” Catain wrote.
“I hope that the case of Leonardo shows that ADHD is not linked to low IQ or lack of creativity, but rather the difficulty of capitalising on natural talents.
“I hope that Leonardo’s legacy can help us to change some of the stigma around ADHD.”
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