Sgarbi’s hunch is that Leonardo and Giacomo Andrea collaborated on their drawings, but few traces of Giacomo Andrea survive, and unearthing more, enough to make Sgarbi’s case definitively, may take years. Still, scholars already find it intriguing. The French historian Pierre Gros, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Vitruvius, says he considers the idea “seductive and convincing.”
One of the few other known references to Giacomo Andrea concerns his death. In 1499 the French occupied Milan, where he and Leonardo had lived since the 1480s. Already admired internationally, Leonardo established cordial relations with the French and safely fled the city. But Giacomo Andrea wasn’t so lucky. He apparently stayed on as a kind of resistance fighter, and the French captured, hanged and quartered him the following year. “Because of his loyalty to the Duke of Milan,” Sgarbi says, “Giacomo Andrea was erased from history”—as was his Vitruvian Man.
Toby Lester’s new book, Da Vinci’s Ghost, is about the history behind Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man. You can read more of his work at tobylester.com.