Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hunt for the 'Battle of Anghiari' at standstill

The effort to discover if one of Leonardo da Vinci's long lost masterpieces is hidden within the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, have ground to a halt.

Maurizio Seracini, an Italian expert in high-technology art analysis, was trying to get access to the Florentine palace so he could use thermographic cameras and other techniques to locate 'The Battle of Anghiari' which Leonardo painted in 1505.

But in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Seracini complains that after 15 months of delays in getting permission to conduct his investigation, "the search has stopped."

Seracini says "the problem is purely political, the change of administration has blocked the investigation."

"There is no logical explanation," he adds. "These studies have not cost the government even one euro" since funding has been supplied by private donors.

Seracini hopes that Matteo Renzi, who was elected mayor of Florence in June, will allow him to continue his investigation. In the meantime, Seracini and his team are now working on the Palazzo Medici, where they hope to discover traces of the original art work on its walls as well as evidence of a secret tunnel that connected the 15th century palace to the Basilica of San Lorenzo.

The Battle of Anghiari was seen in the Palazzo Vecchio until the mid-16th century, when a renovation was undertaken by Giorgio Vasari. For centuries, most scholars believed that Da Vinci's work was destroyed during the renovation, but Seracini believes that Vasari would not have destroyed the masterpiece and somehow had it preserved.

Using non-invasive techniques, such as a high-frequency, surface-penetrating radar and thermographic camera, Seracini made a survey of the main hall within the Palazoo Vecchio. Among other conclusions, he found out that Vasari had built another wall in front of the east wall where the original fresco of Leonardo da Vinci was reported to be located. He found a gap of 1 to 3 centimeters between the two walls, large enough for the older fresco to be preserved.

Here is a 2007 report on the Lost Leonardo: