Sunday 18 December 2011

Discovering the lost Leonardo?

Peter Paul Rubens' copy of the "Battle of Anghiari""The Battle of Anghiari"s project of National Geographic (1603)
Louvre, Paris
The hunt for discovering a lost Leonardo Da Vinci is reaching its climax in Florence, while facing an hard protest by more than 150 prominent art historians, who criticize the destructive but speculative work possibly leading to a masterpiece's discovery.

The search for Leonardo's "Battle of Anghiari" conducted in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, in the famous Hall of 500, is a project led and sponsored by National Geographic and the University of California.

"The battle of Anghiari" was painted by Leonardo in 1505 to commemorate the 1440 battle on the plain of Anghiari between Milan and the Italian League led by the Republic of Florence, which emerged as the most important power in central Italy. In 1503, the Gonfaloniere Piero Soderini commissioned  Leonardo to decorate the wall in the Hall of 500 in Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of government in Florence. 

Da Vinci used this commission to experiment a new mural oil techinique which failed miserably, dripping before dried and leading him to abandon his work. Nonetheless, this masterpiece was later called " the school of the world" and was widely copied e.g. by Rubens, whose painting of one scene hangs in the Louvre in Paris.

After the 1555 the Hall was renovated and enlarged, Giorgio Vasari painted six new murals over the east and the west walls and Da Vinci half-finished painting was assumed to have been destroyed in the process. 

According to the director of this scientific research, Maurizio Seracini, the 16th century Giorgio Vasari's famous fresco "The battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana" painted in 1563 would hide the lost Leonardo's masterpiece. Probably Vasari, who was loath to destroy Leonardo's work, preferred to brick it up behind a new wall adding his fresco on this, rather than destroying it.

This thesis was strengthened when Seracini discovered that Vasari painted a soldier holding a flag on which is written "Cerca Trova", i.e. "Seek and Ye shall find", which can be a clue for the future generations. 

Seracini, one of the world's leading expert in the field of the art diagnostics, used non-invasive technique, such as high-frequency, surface-penatrating radar and  thermographic cameras, which confirmed there is an air gap behind the Vasari's fresco. The researcher inserted tiny cameras through seven drilled holes in the visible wall and found a 2cm cavity. On the back wall beyond the cavity,  traces of an organic pigment were found.  

Work started on November 27, 2011 and full results are expected at the beginning of the 2012. The city's mayor Matteo Renzi claimed " We are finally there - after five centuries we are finally able to solve one of the biggest mystery in the art history".

No comments: