On April 4, 2012, art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini, Associate Director of the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology at the University of California, San Diego, spoke before a full audience at Studio Art Centers International (SACI) in Florence, Italy, about his latest discoveries regarding the search for Leonardo da Vinci’s lost Battle of Anghiari. In his concluding statement of The Battle of Anghiari: After 500 Years, It’s Time to Solve the Mystery, Seracini states that the materials found behind Giorgio Vasari’s fresco in the Hall of the ’500 in Palazzo Vecchio (Florence) are compatible to traces of a paint layer referable to Leonardo’s wall painting.
The hunt for Leonardo’s unfinished mural, the Battle of Anghiari, has mystified art historians for centuries. Some experts believe the unfinished mural, began in 1505 to commemorate Florence’s 15th-century victory over Milan in the medieval Tuscan town of Anghiari, could be hidden behind the wall which can presently seen in the Salone dei Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio. The wall was subsequently frescoed over decades later by Giorgio Vasari after having been commissioned by Cosimo Medici to paint Battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana in 1563.
Vasari, a great admirier of Leonardo may have purposely left a crucial 1-3cm gap between the old and newly constructed wall, (found by using thermographic cameras, ultrasound, radar and x-rays) when he revamped the grand hall so as to not destroy the master’s work, which had been referred to by visitors for over 50 years prior to the remodel.
There exists no physical record of where the mural could precisely remain, but a small clue was potentially presented by Vasari: cerca trova (seek and you shall find) written in tiny 1″ text in the upper corner of the east wall, not easily visible from the viewer’s floor level vantage point. This clue sparked Seracini’s interest in 1975 when he began his research. Since then, a persistant struggle with controversy, funding, technology, and beaurocratic support have finally been pushed aside and in an official announcement in March, the results of recent studies and analysis of samples found behind Vasari’s wall are organically consistent with pigments used on Leonardo’s frescoes of the same time period — an encouraging report. To find these samples, Seracini and his team of experts passed microscopic probes through tiny holes in Vasari’s wall in areas where the paint was already damaged, therefore not creating any newly compromised areas. The results are promising and the world awaits the next move: will the mural be revealed to us once and for all, after over 500 years hidden in mystery?
See the recent National Geographic special, “Finding the Lost da Vinci” to find out more about this exciting research. To learn more about how the research began, see the New York Times article by Rachel Donadio and news from Reuters at the National Post.