The Real Reason Leonardo Da Vinci Disappeared For Two Years

Five hundred years after his death, the worlds of art, science, and history are still trying to plumb the depths of Leonardo da Vinci. When it comes to his career, however, it's relatively easy for historians to look at a piece he created or some musings that he wrote, figure out the date, and place it within the progression of his lifetime of work — from his early apprenticeship to his death as an aged man.

However, early in his career, da Vinci took a couple of years off, effectively disappearing for two years before reemerging to take on a commission in 1478, according to Mental Floss. And the reasons why are anything but ambiguous: He found himself on the wrong side of the law in Florence, Italy, and though he was acquitted of the charges against him, the painter apparently decided that getting out of town and spending a couple of years laying low were in order.

Leonardo da Vinci was (perhaps falsely) charged with sodomy

In the 1470s in Florence, it was exceedingly common for adult men to enjoy sexual relationships with teenage boys and/or younger men, per BBC News. Indeed, so common was the practice that the Germans even used the word "Florenzer" to describe a same-sex relationship. Leonardo, for his part, certainly enjoyed being around other men. And according to National Geographic, he was openly gay at a time when that could have been a death sentence.

Indeed, the Florentine authorities were up to here with the open homosexuality going on in their city and began cracking down. At some point, da Vinci got caught up in it — having been accused along with three other men of being in a sexual relationship with a male prostitute — and was charged with sodomy, according to The Week. He was acquitted, and the entire thing may have just been a case of legal harassment brought upon by a rival artist. Nevertheless, by this time, da Vinci had decided that he and Florence weren't a good fit, and he skipped town for a couple of years, returning in 1478 to take on a commission at a Florentine chapel, Mental Floss reports.