Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘possible’ lost fresco (Photos)

A Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece may be hidden behind a fresco in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, art historians say.

Da Vinci’s “The Battle of Anghiari” is said to be preserved on a wall behind Giorgio Vasari’s “The Battle of Marciano,” after chemical analysis of probes through the existing mural found paint also used in the “Mona Lisa.” However, the project is controversial — experts are critical of the damage to Vasari’s painting that will occur — and historians say their research is “not conclusive,” according to the BBC.

This photo shows an endoscope being thread into the Vasari wall to find signs of the lost Leonardo painting "The Battle of Anghiari" in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. (DAVE YODER/National Geographic/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Historian Maurizio Seracini of the University of California San Diego suspected that the work was hidden behind the Vasari wall because of a clue that the artist left: A soldier in Vasari’s work holding a small flag that said: “He who seeks, finds.”

A research team has drilled small holes in the Vasari work and encountered an air cavity. They believe that Vasari bricked a separate wall over the Da Vinci work because he was unwilling to paint directly over it for his own mural. A sample of the paint that came back on the probe was “was similar to black pigment found in brown glazes on Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and St. John the Baptist, identified in a recently published scientific paper by the Louvre, which analysed all the Da Vinci paintings in its collection,” the team said in the Guardian.

The painting that may be hiding behind the Vasari is an epic scene of a battle on horseback, painted in 1504. The Vasari fresco was painted in 1563. The Da Vinci painting had been admired and copied by the artist’s peers, including Peter Paul Rubens, whose drawing of the scene is in the collection of the Louvre.

A view of a banner showing the painting which might be hidden behind the Vasari wall on March 12, 2012, at its location in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio during a press conference. (DARIO THUBURN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

This picture released by the National Geographic on March 12, 2012, shows the endoscope and sampling tool used to investigate the air gap behind the Vasari mural in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. (DAVE YODER/National Geographic/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

This picture, released by the National Geographic on March 12, 2012, shows a sampling tool about to be placed into the Vasari wall in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio to extract material for analysis. (DAVE YODER/National Geographic/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

National Geographic Fellow Maurizio Seracini, foreground, and his team viewing footage captured by the endoscope behind the Vasari wall at Palazzo Vecchio. (DAVE YODER/National Geographic/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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