Lost Leonardo da Vinci Work ‘Hidden’ Behind Vasari Painting In Florence

A hidden message in a painting has led to the first evidence of a ‘lost’ Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece that has been hidden behind another mural in Florence, scientists announced today.

Art 'detectives' searching for a long-lost Leonardo masterpiece in a palazzo in Florence have found traces of paint which match that used by the Renaissance genius for the Mona Lisa. Researchers claim the discovery is the first definitive proof that the Leonardo work lies hidden beneath a huge battle scene subsequently painted in the same spot by the artist Giorgio Vasari. In this photo National Geographic Fellow Maurizio Seracini (foreground) and his team view footage captured by the endoscope behind the Vasari wall. Photo: Dave Yoder/National Geographic

The researchers from San Diego State University headed by art professor Maurizio Seracini, who has spent decades searching for ‘The Battle of Anghiari’, da Vinci’s fresco showing a 15th century battle between soldiers from Florence and Milan.

“This is very exciting and can only prove that we are looking in the right place for the Battle Of Anghiari,” Seracini told reporter Mondays. “We are still at the preliminary phase and there is still much work to be done to resolve the mystery.”

Experts claim that da Vinci got down to the artwork in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio in 1505, but didn’t finish it. Another painter, Giorgio Vasari, is believed to have placed a wall in front of it around 1550 and painted a new mural over top, CBC News writes.

To retrieve the masterpiece researchers have drilled tiny holes in Vasari’s ‘The Battle of Marciano’. Their analysis showed that the black pigment found is the same paint used in the Mona Lisa.

Still, further analysis is to be conducted before the researchers can say conclusively that they have found Leonardo’s work. The researchers have been given the go-ahead to use infrared and other technology to look behind the existing Vasari mural.

“Although we are still in the preliminary stages of the research and there is still a lot of work to be done to solve this mystery, the evidence does suggest that we are searching in the right place,” Seracini announced on Monday.

Inspired by the word’s “Cerca, trova,” (“seek and you shall find”) the art expert revealed: “We have found these very special black pigments, and there are some traces of red.”

The red is a kind of lacquer “used for oil painting. And this element matches Leonardo’s plan to paint “his Battle of Anghiari’ with an oil technique,” Seracini contended.

Some art historians working on the project withdrew their support and Italia Nostra, Italy’s leading nature and arts conservation group, asked Florentine authorities to halt it because they said it risked harming the Vassari fresco and because they believed it was unlikely that the original Leonardo was there, The Daily Mail reports.

However, some art historians remain sceptical, citing the fresco of Battle of Anghiari was most likely destroyed before Vassari painted his new fresco.

A letter written by Keith Christiansen, vice president of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and supported by other experts, claims that the ‘work probably did not exist and the wrong wall is being drilled through, with damage being caused to the Vasari work’.

But Carlo Pedretti, the world’s  leading Da Vinci expert, is also sure that the fresco is hidden in the former fortress. According to Metro, the expert said Renaissance accounts showed ‘the  fresco can only be there’.

Mr Pedretti added Vasari painted over works by Giotto elsewhere in Florence and left them intact. ‘If he didn’t  damage those ones, why should have done so with Leonardo’s?’ he said.

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