Many of Leonardo's latter-day biographers have questioned the orientation of his sexuality, even whether he had any. He would not be the first towering genius to sublimate physical gratification to the demands of his life's work. Or perhaps his reputation has kept his secret better than we know.
The first time I visited the Louvre, I was too scared to approach the Mona Lisa. The fabled portrait looked surprising small. It should not have come as such a surprise to someone who, since childhood, was aware of the panel's dimensions - a modest 77 cm × 53 cm (30 in × 21 in.)
Inside its bullet-proof glass coffin, the four-centuries-old painting was protected from the admirers who surged, three ranks deep, around it. In their enthusiasm to capture a memento of this classic attraction, they jostled each other for camera space before elbowing their way out of the crowd and on to the gallery's next draw card. On that long-ago day, these visitors were all Japanese tourists, no bigger than myself, yet I couldn't help fearing for my arthritis-damaged joints amid that boisterous throng.
As always, though, the setback held a hidden opportunity. Hanging back from the press around the priceless portrait, I spent the interval in studying the other Da Vinci paintings lining the walls. Most of them were familiar from plates in various books about the famous artist. But now, seeing several of his paintings side by side, I became aware of something I'd never noticed before.
All shared a common factor: an overwhelming similarity between the faces of this Michael, that Madonna. Whether Virgin mother or awesome Angel, the faces in these paintings were all the same face. Since then, researchers much cleverer than I and with access to resources few of us can summon, have made discoveries yielding proof that my untutored surmise was on track.
Leonardo was known to conduct a life-long search for what might be termed 'the perfect face.' He took meticulous measurements of the proportions of the human body, especially of the components of the head and the face.
From his obsessive investigations, he evolved the theory known to artists as the Divine Proportion. This means that in an Ideal Face, the width of a large component - for instance, the forehead - will be approximately 1.6 times that of a smaller component - for instance, the mouth.
Mathematicians know this as the Golden Ratio. The equation is written as: 'the ratio of the sum of two quantities is to the larger quantity is as the ratio of the larger quantity is to the smaller one.'
Recent investigations draw an almost indisputable conclusion about two of the most famous works by Leonardo Da Vinci - the Salvatore Mundi ( Jesus as Saviour of the World ) and the Mona Lisa ( supposedly a portrait of the young wife of a Florentine merchant. ) Both faces are self-portraits by Leonardo. Even more startling is the new evidence pointing to the face on the Turin Shroud as another Da Vinci self-portrait.
Humanity owes a great debt of gratitude to this enigmatic genius for his contributions to Art, Science and Philosophy. I wonder if this causes us to treat the man's every endeavour with an excess of gravitas, losing sight of his purely human nature. Perhaps the riddle has the simplest answer of all: was Leonardo in love with The Man in the Mirror?
Dorothy Gauvin is an internationally acclaimed Australian painter in oils who specialises in an epic theme of Australia's pioneers. See images of her 'Life-Story' portraits, an ABC of homemade tools for painters with arthritis, plus tips and advice for aspiring artists and collectors on her website at http://www.artgallerygauvin.com/