Art hunter Maurizio Seracini believes he has found Leonardo da Vinci’s Battle of Anghiari, thought to have been destroyed over 500 years ago. Giorgio Vasari’s fresco Battle of Marciano now occupies the space in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio where Leonardo’s fresco once existed.
Last week, Seracini, a native of Florence and trained as a biomedical engineer at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), announced that his team of researchers had found chemical similarities between the pigment in a sample taken behind the wall of Vasari’s fresco and the paint used in Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. Seracini’s team believes that Vasari left Leonardo’s work intact, enclosed in a hollow space between walls.
The fresco was commissioned by the city-stated of Florence in 1440 to represent its victory in battle over the Duchy of Milan. Sculptor Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571) called the work a “ground-breaking masterpiece” and Florentine painter described the fresco in a 1549 letter to a friend as “a miraculous thing”. While the work is known from sketches and copies, the original hasn’t been seen since.
Leonardo began the work in Palazzo Vecchio, applying paint directly to the dry plaster, instead of the traditional use of wet plaster. Just like his Last Supper in Milan, the fresco soon began to crumble and Leonardo stopped working and left for Milan.
Seracini first found a clue that the fresco might still exist in Vasari’s work: a small banner which reads “Cerca Trova”, meaning “Seek and ye shall find”. Seracini’s search for The Battle of Anghiari began during his studies at UCSD; now over 30 years later, he believes he is close to achieving his goal.
Now it remains to be decided whether Vasari’s fresco will be removed in order to reveal Leonardo’s masterpiece.