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Updated: March 13, 2012 03:35 IST

Clues in hunt for long-lost Da Vinci masterpiece

AFP
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The Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
AFP The Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

Art sleuths said on Monday they believe they have found traces of a Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece on a hidden wall in a palace in Florence that has not been seen in over four centuries.

The traces were collected using tiny probes introduced into a wall covering the original surface in a lavish hall in the Palazzo Vecchio and contained a black pigment also used in the “Mona Lisa”, historians and officials said.

The research is the result of a decades-long quest by San Diego University art history professor Maurizio Seracini, who was featured in Dan Brown's bestseller The Da Vinci Code, and used cutting-edge technology in the project. “The composition of manganese and iron found in the black pigment has been identified exclusively on Leonardo's paintings,” Prof. Seracini, whose methods have also drawn controversy from the art world, told reporters in the Italian city.

Prof. Seracini pointed out that Leonardo had painted the “Mona Lisa” at around the same time as the long-lost fresco, “The Battle of Anghiari”, but said the research was “not conclusive” and would have to be continued. The probes also discovered red lacquer and brown pigment on the hidden wall and a gap between the old wall and the new wall built in front of it.

Da Vinci (1452-1519) began his painting of the battle in 1440 between Milanese and Florentine forces in a hall in Florence's traditional seat of government in 1505 but never finished it because the colours began to run.

The fresco was nevertheless praised by Da Vinci's contemporaries for what art historian and fellow painter Giorgio Vasari called its “graceful beauty” and Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens drew a famous copy of it.

Some historians believe Vasari built a wall in front of the fresco so as to preserve Da Vinci's efforts out of respect for the renowned master and then painted his own work, “The Battle of Marciano”, on the new wall in 1563.

Prof. Seracini said Vasari himself left a tantalising clue on his painting about the hidden Leonardo with an inscription on a flag held up by one of the soldiers in the battle that reads “Cerca Trova” (“Seek and You Shall Find”).

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