Da Vinci’s Lost Masterpiece?

On June 6, 1505, Leonardo da Vinci began to paint The Battle of Anghiari in the Palazzo Vecchio. Over fifty years later, Giorgio Vasari was hired to remodel the room where da Vinci’s mural was located. In the process, da Vinci’s mural vanished into thin air. New evidence suggests that not only does it still exist but that it is in the exact same place where it was painted all those years ago!

Battle of the Anghiari – The Lost Leonardo?

The Battle of Anghiari is often referred to as “The Lost Leonardo.” At the time of its creation, it was considered his finest work. Today it’s remembered via a few sketches done by da Vinci as well as a Peter Paul Rubens drawing which was apparently inspired by a copy of the original work (Ruben’s drawing is pictured above).

For many centuries, this work was feared lost. However, it turns out Vasari had a penchant for secretly preserving artwork. Back in 1861, workers removed a wall from Santa Maria Novella. The wall had been adorned with Vasari’s Madonna of the Rosary. Behind it, they discovered a 1428 piece by Masaccio entitled Trinità. Rather than destroy Masaccio’s fresco, Vasari had covered it up with a false wall and in the process, saved it for future generations.

Did Giorgio Vasari save The Battle of Anghiari?

Art diagnostic expert Maurizio Seracini believes Vasari used similar techniques to save The Battle of Anghiari. In 2005, he used sophisticated radar equipment to discover “a narrow cavity behind the Vasari fresco Battle of Marciano.” In true Da Vinci Code fashion, he also found an inscription from Vasari on the Battle of Marciano. It reads “Cerca, trova.” Or, “Seek and you shall find.”

Yesterday, Seracini’s team reported that they have uncovered chemical evidence of da Vinci’s lost work. Here’s some details on the search for the lost Battle of Anghiari from Live Science:

  • “One of the samples contained a black material with a chemical composition similar to black pigment found in brown glazes on da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and “St. John the Baptist,” identified in a recently published scientific paper by the Louvre, which analyzed all the da Vinci paintings in its collection.
  • Flakes of red material found seem to be made up of organic material that may be associated with red lake (lacquer) — something unlikely to exist in an ordinary plastered wall.
  • From the high-definition images captured by the probe, the researchers saw a beige material on the original wall, which, they say, could only have been applied by a paintbrush.
  • The researchers confirmed an air gap between the brick wall holding Vasari’s mural and the wall behind it, something that had been identified in previous research using radar scans. The researchers speculate Vasari may have built a wall in front of da Vinci’s masterpiece in order to preserve it.”

Even if Vasari did store the mural behind a false wall, experts believe it could be in extremely poor shape. Still, we continue to believe the search is worthwhile. For if Seracini is right, then what may have been da Vinci’s greatest masterpiece will get a second opportunity to see the light of day…and to dazzle the world.

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