In the early 16th century maps were rare and often inaccurate. Leonardo produced several accurate maps such as the town plan of Imola created in order to win the patronage. Borgia was so impressed that he hired him as a military engineer and architect. Leonardo also produced a map of Chiana Valley in Tuscany, which he surveyed, without the benefit of modern equipment, by pacing the distances. In 1515, Leonardo produced a map of the Roman Southern Coast which is linked to his work for the Vatican and relates to his plans to drain the marshland.

Recent research by Donato Pezzutto suggests that the background landscapes in Leonardo’s paintings depict specific locations as aerial views with enhanced depth, employing a technique called cartographic perspective. Pezzutto identifies the location of the Mona Lisa to the Val di Chiana, the Annunciation to the Arno Valley, the Madonna of the Yarnwinder to the Adda Valley and The Virgin and Child with St Anne to the Sessia Valley.

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