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The Earliest Globe to Show the Americas May Have Been Made by Leonardo da Vinci in 1504

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2021

Leonardo Globe

The Ostrich Egg Globe, made in/around 1504, is the earliest-known European globe to depict the Americas. And there’s evidence that it was made by Leonardo da Vinci. Open Culture has the story:

Missinne, a real estate developer, collector, and globe expert originally from Belgium, discovered the globe in 2012 at the London Map Fair. It was purchased “from a dealer who said it had been part of an important European collection for decades,” and its buyer and owner remain anonymous. After the globe appeared, Missinne “consulted more than 100 scholars and experts in his year-long analysis,” putting “about five years of research into one year,” says Sander, calling the research “an incredible detective story.”

Missinne’s investigation seems to substantiate his claims that the globe was made by Leonardo or his workshop. The evidence, some of which you can find on the Cambridge Scholars Publishing site, includes a 1503 preparatory map in da Vinci’s papers; the presence of arsenic, which only Leonardo was known to use at the time in copper to keep it from losing its lustre; “The use of chiaroscuro, pentienti, triangular shapes, the mathematics of the scale reflecting Leonardo’s written dimension of planet earth”; and a 1504 letter from Leonardo himself stating, “my world globe I want returned back from my friend Giovanni Benci.”

As with all things newly attributed to Leonardo in recent decades, there’s disagreement about this claim. You can read about the evidence collected by Stefaan Missinne, the discoverer of the globe and primary champion of its Leonardo connection, and decide for yourself. My brief, amateur take: if the first point in your analysis of a connection between this globe and Leonardo da Vinci is based on Salvator Mundi, which itself has disputed authorship and all but disappeared after its 2017 purchase, you’ve chosen a tough path towards persuasion.