Friday, July 11, 2008

The Search for the Hidden da Vinci

An engraving by Peter Paul Rubens of Leonardo da Vinci's long-lost 'The Battle of Anghiari,' based on copies of the work before it disappeared
How amazing is this?

For 30 years, Maurizio Seracini, a pioneer in forensic art analysis, has been experimenting with noninvasive imaging techniques to find the da Vinci mural – should it still exist – without touching or disturbing the equally priceless frescoes painted over it. Dr. Seracini's fascination with da Vinci's missing masterwork – The Battle of Anghiarispurred a revolution in the science of art diagnostics, harnessing an array of medical and military technologies, ranging from radar mapping and X-ray fluorescence to ultrasound probes and ultraviolet scans.

Quite amazing. That work is being done in the Palazzo Vecchio, in Firenze.

Until recently, art scholars were confident they knew the fate of da Vinci's mural of war. The painting, so tradition says, had been botched by Leonardo's own hand, abandoned in shame and then obliterated by an imperious Medici duke.

In 1977, however, Dr. Seracini, then a young apprentice to noted UCLA art scholar Carlo Pedretti, noticed a curious thing. He was inspecting the vast battle fresco by Giorgio Vasari that since 1563 has covered the long wall once occupied by da Vinci's work. There, in the clash of armies depicted near the ceiling, he was startled to discover that Vasari had painted two words in white on a tiny green banner all but invisible to view from below: "cerca trova."

Seek; you will find.

A confluence of technology and art: Before he turned to art, Dr. Seracini trained in bioengineering at UC San Diego and became expert in medical imaging during postgraduate work in electrical engineering at Padua University. He has used the tools of science to diagnose thousands of major paintings and sculptures – from Botticelli and Caravaggio to Giotto and Raphael. With ultraviolet imaging, he proved in 2002 that much of a celebrated da Vinci masterwork – The Adoration of the Magi – had been painted over by someone else. "For me a work of art is like a patient," Dr. Seracini says.

A Google image search turned up this:

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