The Leonardo da Vinci Bicycle Hoax


Recently, a drawing of a bicycle thought to have originated from the studio of Leonardo da Vinci is now considered a hoax. 

This drawing was believed to be by Giacomo Caprotti (c. 1493), a pupil of Leonardo.  Only the two circles are originally from the Codex Atlanticus, on the verso of sheet 133.

Professor Dr. Hans-Erhard Lessing of the University of Ulm, Germany, presented his paper, The Evidence against 'Leonardo's Bicycle', at the Eighth International Cycling History Conference in Glasgow, September 1997. His research was also published in The Boneshaker #146, Spring 1998.

Professor Lessing states:

"Professor Carlo Pedretti, an art historian and da Vinci scholar at UCLA, is the author of The Codex Atlanticus of Leonardo da Vinci. A Catalogue of its newly restored Sheets. Part One and Two. Harcourt-Brace-Jovanovich, New York 1978. He wrote that in 1961 he examined the versos of the original sheets in translucence by holding them up to the light (they were still attached to the album pages). At the time, he only saw light traces of circles in pen and ink.  The forgery can be dated between 1967 and 1974."





Lessing includes in his Leonardo Update published in The Boneshaker #147, Summer 1998, a letter from Jost Pietsch of Muenchen, Germany:

"The bicycle is drawn with a pencil. Pencil lead is made from graphite; graphite was discovered decades after Leonardo's death (1519) in 1564 in Cumberland, England."