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January 2013

Dermatology in the Artwork of Leonardo Da Vinci

JAMA Dermatol. 2013;149(1):73. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.917

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was a multifaceted genius and one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance. For 500 years, people have marveled at the beauty of his artwork, with all its creative imagination and wide-ranging areas of inquiry. Among the many academic fields touched on by Leonardo was dermatology, as the following examples from his art illustrate.

As many readers know, Leonardo's famous portrait, “Mona Lisa,” lacks eyebrows and eyelashes. There are 2 explanations for this finding: (1) during those times, it may have been fashionable for women to pluck their eyebrows into thin lines or even completely remove them, as appears to be the case with Mona Lisa; and (2) Mona Lisa originally was painted with eyebrows, but they faded away over time and with attempts to clean the painting. Supporting this theory is a recent report that Pascal Cotte, a French engineer, used a high-definition camera to photograph Mona Lisa and found evidence of a left eyebrow hair.1

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