In May, the world will mark 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci.

Art galleries and museums are preparing shows to honor the life and works of the artist they call Leonardo, who died in France on May 2, 1519. He is remembered as one of the greatest artists and creative thinkers of all time. Among his most famous paintings are The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.

Recently, researchers were studying what they think is da Vinci’s earliest-known artwork. They used special lighting to study the work and discovered there were two images, not one. One drawing was on the back of the piece, which is dated August 5, 1473.

The drawing on the front, made when Leonardo was 21 years old, shows a river valley and a castle outside the city of Florence. There is little left of the drawing on the back, perhaps because it was rubbed off. Only a bridge over a river can be seen. But there is writing on both sides.

The writing on the front gives the date and goes from right to left. Some people would call this “mirror-writing.” Leonardo often wrote this way in his notebooks. On the back, the handwriting goes from left to right, and tells about an agreement, probably to produce a work of art.

Cecilia Frosinini is an art historian. She said, “Leonardo was born left-handed, but was taught to write with his right hand from a very young age. By looking at his writings, including from this drawing, one can see his right-handed calligraphy is educated and well done.”

Experts compared the two handwriting samples and said they were both made by Leonardo. They show he could write well using both his left hand and his right hand.

The drawing is known as “Landscape 8P” from its number in an art catalog. It will be part of an exhibit at Italy’s Uffizi Gallery. The gallery director, Eike Schmidt, said the drawing gives art experts a new way of looking at Leonardo’s drawing technique and his abilities in writing.

“It is a real revolution in the field of Leonardo studies,” he said.

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.

gallery (n.) - a room or building in which people look at paintings, sculptures, etc.

  • She owns a gallery downtown.

castle (n.) - a large building usually with high, thick walls and towers that was built in the past to protect against attack

  • Millionaires built their castles along the lake.

calligraphy (n.) -  the art of making beautiful handwriting

  • She has learned Arabic calligraphy.

exhibit (n.) -  an object or a collection of objects that have been put out in a public space for people to look at : something shown in an exhibition

  • Have you seen the new photography exhibit?


Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.

1. When did Leonardo da Vinci die?

2. What are some of da Vinci's famous paintings?

3. What is “mirror-writing”?

4. Who is Cecilia Frosinini?


Exercise 3

Make a sentence.

Make sentences using these words.

gallery, castle, calligraphy, exhibit


Exercise 4


Have a discussion on following questions.

1. Have you heard of Leonardo da Vinci before?

2. Do you have a favourite artist?

3. How often do you visit art galleries?

4. Are you right-handed or left-handed?


This lesson is based on a news article originally published by VOA.