New lead in hunt for lost Leonardo

Hopes of finding a long-lost work by Leonardo da Vinci have been fired by the discovery of a tiny cavity in a wall in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

Maurizio Seracini, a world-renowned expert in the use of advanced technology to investigate artworks, said he had found a hollow space behind Giorgio Vasari’s fresco, the Battle of Marciano. He said he believed the gap had been “created by Vasari himself to protect Leonardo’s masterpiece”.

Leonardo is known to have begun a vast work, the Battle of Anghiari, on the same wall in 1505. A Florentine writer who saw it described it 44 years later as “miraculous”.

A British organisation, the Kalpa group, said on Tuesday it was ready to fund the final phase of Seracini’s investigation, provided he could obtain the necessary permission from Florence city council.
Karl Sabbagh, a consultant to the group, said: “His findings so far have been tantalisingly positive.”

In 1563 Cosimo I Medici commissioned Vasari to paint a new work over Leonardo’s. Why has never been clear, but the Battle of Anghiari was unfinished and may have been in poor condition.

Da Vinci had difficulty with the techniques of wall painting—his Last Supper began to flake in his lifetime. For centuries, it was assumed Vasari simply whitewashed over an irreparably damaged Battle of Anghiari to create a surface for his own painting.

Seracini’s investigations are referred to in Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code. Among the devices he has used to assemble his findings are laser scanners, x-ray machines and thermographic and radar equipment.

“The answer may be that it crumbled away. But at least it would be an answer,” he said. - Guardian Unlimited Â

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