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Monday, March 12, 2012

Da Vinci's lost fresco “La Battaglia di Anghiari” likely found in Florence

Copy made in the mid-16th century and then extended at the edges in the early 17th century by Rubens, who also completed the sword of the fourth horseman.

Behind Giorgio Vasari's fresco “La battaglia di Marciano,” painted in 1563 when the Hall of Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, was being remodeled, is likely to be found Leonardo Da Vinci's “La battaglia di Anghiari” (The Battle of Anghiari), that he started painting in 1505 but left unfinished when he left Florence in 1506.

Vasari painted several frescoes there and the Da Vinci's fresco was thought to be destroyed.
But Seracini, when surveying the hall using laser and radar methods, discovered air gaps behind Vasari's fresco and suspected that he built a wall in front of Da Vinci's unfinished masterpiece and painted it over with a fresco in order to preserve it.
Seracini also discovered a telling clue: Vasari included a soldier in the fresco holding a flag that reads, "CERCA TROVA"(Seek and you shall find), a proof of Vasari's intention to preserve Leonardo's work.

Researchers led by Maurizio Seracini, art history professor at the University of San Diego, California, and sponsored by the UCSD and The National Geographic Society, used probes to drill a few small holes in the fresco painted by Vasari.

Terry D. Garcia, executive vice president for Mission Programs for the National Geographic Society, who supports the investigation, atests that the holes in the mural were made in areas that had been previously restored or in fissures, thus assuring Vasari's painting.

Analysis made to the chemical content of the paint, showed that its composition was similar to that in the paint that Da Vinci used when he painted the "Mona Lisa" and "St. John the Baptist."

Beige paint and special black pigments were found, as well as traces of red lacquer, a pigment seldom used in murals due to its reduced light fasteness and high price.
The red lacquer is used in oil paintings and the find of this pigment matches with Leonardo's intention to paint his 'Battle of Anghiari' with a technique used in oil paintings.

Seracini told reporters during a press conference this monday that the pigments found beneath Vasari's fresco are consistent with the organic paint Da Vinci used on his frescoes.

The team of researchers believes be one step closer in its search to find Da Vinci's lost masterpiece "The Battle of Anghiari"

Although this investigation counts with several important supporters, namely from the city of Florence and of renowned art restoration institute Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Tomaso Montanari, a professor at the University of Naples Federico II said that Seracini's process is not transparent and is based on sensationalism rather than science; Seracini, who's been working on this search for near 30 years, was featured in Dan Brown's novel "The Da Vinci Code."

He also afirms that the painting behind Vasari's fresco could be ornamental decoration, or paint used by other artists in Florence during the same time period. And because of Da Vinci's experimental painting techniques, it's unlikely that "The Battle of Anghiari" would be preserved for so long.

Montanari has undertook a petition signed by more than 100 art historians who oppose the process, including experts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The National Gallery in London.

In the meantime, Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi told reporters they may decide to remove parts of the Vasari work which were restored in the 19th and 20th centuries in order to look behind them.

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