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Lost Leonardo da Vinci Mural Behind False Wall?

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Author Topic: Lost Leonardo da Vinci Mural Behind False Wall?  (Read 223 times)
Jessie Phallon
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Posts: 4695

« on: March 17, 2012, 02:24:50 pm »

Plan B

Despite the public firestorm, National Geographic's Seracini and his team were given a week to continue their work in late 2011—but not in the 14 spots they'd hoped to investigate.

To avoid damaging original portions of Vasari's painting, museum curators permitted Seracini and his team to drill only into existing cracks and recently restored spots.

Many of the locations danced on the periphery of the hollow space, but the researchers struck gold: a hollow space behind 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) of fresco and brick.

They inserted an endoscopic camera into the void and took video of rough masonry work as well as spots that appear to have been stroked by a brush (more on the science of the search for the lost Leonardo da Vinci).

Grit removed from the hole was analyzed with x-rays, and the results suggested it contained traces of black pigment.

Based on the x-ray data, Seracini thinks the black pigments are similar to those found in brown glazes of Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" and "St. John the Baptist." (Read about the struggle to save Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" from warping.)

Red flakes also pulled from inside the wall could be lacquer—something that wouldn't be present on a normal plaster wall.

That Seracini found components unique to Renaissance painting leads him to call the work "encouraging evidence," yet he bemoaned the fact that further samples couldn't be collected in the time allotted.

"nless I get hold of a piece of it, and prove that it is real paint, I cannot say anything definite, and that's very frustrating," Seracini says in the documentary.

(See pictures of the first stages of the search for the lost Leonardo.)

One of the Most Famous Discoveries of a Century?

Peter Siddons, a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory who has verified famous works of art (including a painting by Rembrandt) with particle accelerators, said it seems pretty clear something is behind the Vasari mural.

"There doesn't seem to be enough details out there yet, but based on what has been shared so far, I believe there is a painting. They found paint and they found brushstrokes," Siddons said.

"To jump and say it's a Leonardo da Vinci? That's another question.

"Still, someone took the trouble to build this false wall" he said. "I certainly think that's intriguing."

Oxford's Kemp deemed the results interesting but far from conclusive, since wealthy Renaissance Florentines usually painted their walls for decoration—so the pigments may be from that, not Leonardo's work.

"We can't even be certain which of the long walls Leonardo painted on, as the early accounts are not explicit by any means," he said. "Still, this is a suggestive result at this stage to say, Let's go on a bit further."

Seracini's investigation is on hold again and may not proceed until further political issues in Italy are resolved.

If and when the investigation continues—and if the team recovers evidence of the work—Kemp said it will be one for the record books.

"I think this needs to be resolved. We can't just leave it hanging in the air," Kemp said.

"If it's discovered, it would be one of the most famous discoveries of a century."
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