Leonardo da Vinci, handbag designer

Amidst thousands of drawings of mechanical inventions, artillery, anatomy, the natural world, etc. made by Leonardo da Vinci and collected in the Codex Atlanticus are some fragments of a design that nobody paid much attention to for 500 years. In 1978, Da Vinci scholar Carlo Pedretti paid attention and identified the drawing as a handbag designed by Leonardo da Vinci around 1497.

quot;Pretiosa" by Gherardini above, design by Leonardo da Vinci belowAgnese Sabato and Alessandro Vezzosi of the Museo Ideale Leonardo Da Vinci in Vinci recently reassembled the design from the fragments. Vezzosi thinks Leonardo made several drawings of the same bag but they’ve been lost.

As a tribute to the city of Florence, a city that has long been famous for its exquisite leather work, fashion house Gherardini has brought Leonardo’s handbag to life. Designer Carla Braccialini designed the “Pretiosa” (meaning “precious” and yes, I am saying it like Gollum) bag based on Leonardo’s drawing, and artisans made it by hand using luxury materials like embroidered calf leather and an embossed brass handle.

Here is an all too short video of a craftsman making the “Pretiosa”:


Functional and beautiful, creative and provocative, the bag would have certainly stood out among Renaissance fashion.

“While the shape recalls the lectern in “The Annunciation,” painted by Leonardo in the workshop of Verrocchio, its patterns feature rotating spirals and floral motifs, scrolls and foliage in metamorphosis,” Vezzosi said.

Boasting a unique closing system, the bag was designed at the end of Leonardo’s first Milanese period, around 1497. At that time, the artist was painting the tapestries in the Last Supper and knots designs in the Sala delle Asse in the Castello Sforzesco.

“Pretiosa” was on display for just three days (January 11-13) at the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, the first art school in Europe which was founded by Cosimo I de’ Medici and Giorgio Vasari in 1563. Gherardini has made only 99 Preciouses. They will theoretically be sold in Gherardini boutiques starting in March, but I highly doubt anybody walking in off the street will be able to get their mitts on one.

This wasn’t Leonardo’s only foray into fashion design. Several of his forays into clothing and accessory design have survived, as have his writings on the subject. He had strong opinions on the fashions of his era, condemning excessive ornamentation, overly tight clothes and shoes.

An appreciation for fashion is not Gherardini’s sole connection to the Renaissance genius. Lisa Gherardini, born to a decayed aristocratic Florentine family in 1479, married successful silk merchant Francesco Del Giocondo when she was 15. In 1503, Francesco commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint a portrait of her. It took him so long to paint it that he officially gave up the commission in 1506, although he kept working on it for the rest of his life.

After his death in 1519, the painting was bought by King Francis I of France. Now Leonardo’s portrait of Lisa Gherardini, aka la Gioconda, aka Madonna Lisa, aka Monna Lisa, aka the Mona Lisa, smiles serenely at dense crowds of Louvre visitors. One hundred and twenty-six years ago, her relatives founded the Gherardini fashion house.

14 thoughts on “Leonardo da Vinci, handbag designer

  1. Well, this year is certainly getting off to a good start here in Tuscany–with a capsized cruise ship off the Isola del Giglio (one local newspaper dubbed it “Il Nostro Titanic!”) and the LdV (NOT Louis Vuitton) handbag. I know that no one does matchy-matchy shoes and purse anymore, but if I asked nicely, could they come up with a precious pair of cowboy boots…do you think? One small but essential clarification: There are many things that Vezzosi and the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci are not, but let’s begin with “Not In Florence”. The Museo is in the town of Vinci, on the outskirts of Empoli (a fair trek down the Jersey Turnpike).

    1. I prefer not to use them, but I’m not irate at their usage in general. Of course, in this case I wouldn’t have used one because “overly-tight” applies to both nouns so I wouldn’t separate them with a comma anyhows.

  2. An Oxford comma would have been the opposite of what you wanted. Please don’t think that I was suggesting one should have been used. I only asked because complexities of language interest me.

  3. Will surely recommend this site to some friends! Very interesting site and articles. Really thankful for sharing. Regards,

  4. If you are interested in Leonardo da Vinci, maybe you would liek a new novel about the young Leonardo and how he came up with all those inventions.

    Da Vinci’s Clock explores the early years of the greatest genius of all time, Leonardo Da Vinci. Brought to life are his many inventions in an action packed adventure full of love and lust and a hot sizzling affair with Mona Lisa.Leonardo is a cocksure adventurer who uses equal parts of muscle and brain power to become the military engineer to the rich and powerful. Leonardo is considered to be the major player in the Artistic renaissance but within this exciting novel we also show how he solves the Einstein theory of time travel and moves back and forth between his beloved 15th century and our own modern times.

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