On June 6, 1505, Leonardo da Vinci began to paint the Battle of Anghiari in the Palazzo Vecchio. The 12 by 15 foot mural depicted a Florentine victory over the Milanese. According to the famous Italian painter Giorgio Vasari, da Vinci never finished the project. New evidence suggests that not only was the painting completed but that it was covered up by none other than Vasari himself!
The Lost Leonardo da Vinci?
The Battle of Anghiari is often referred to as “The Lost Leonardo.” At the time of its creation, it was considered his finest work. Today it’s remembered via a few sketches done by da Vinci as well as a Peter Paul Rubens drawing which was apparently inspired by a copy of the original work (Ruben’s drawing is pictured above).
Over fifty years after da Vinci stopped working on the Battle of Anghiari, Vasari was hired to remodel the room where it was located. In the process, the mural vanished. Later art historians believed that Da Vinci’s painting was gone forever.
Did Giorgio Vasari save The Battle of Anghiari?
But in 1861, workers removed a wall from Santa Maria Novella. The wall had been adorned with Vasari’s Madonna of the Rosary. Behind it, they discovered a 1428 piece by Masaccio entitled Trinità. Rather than destroy Masaccio’s fresco, Vasari had covered it up with a false wall and in the process, saved it for future generations. In 2000, Carlo Pedretti “proposed that Vasari saved Leonardo’s masterpiece just as he had Masaccio’s.”
Art diagnostic expert Maurizio Seracini took the suggestion to heart. In 2005, he used sophisticated radar equipment to discover “a narrow cavity behind the Vasari fresco Battle of Marciano.” In true Da Vinci Code fashion, he also found an inscription from Vasari on the Battle of Marciano. It reads “Cerca, trova.” Or, “Seek and you shall find.”
Seracini hopes to locate the work by using a “special copper-crystal mosaic gamma ray diffraction lens.” The camera would fire neutrons through the existing wall. If da Vinci’s painting is behind it, then the metals in the paint will emit gamma rays allowing Seracini to map the strokes. An ambitious fund-raising effort is underway to pay for the camera. But with just 32 days to go, it’s short by $244,000. If you’re interested in donating to the cause, visit here.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
It remains uncertain whether or not the painting was actually hidden away in the first place. And even if Vasari did store it behind a false wall, experts believe that it could be in extremely poor shape. Still, the search is worthwhile. For if Seracini is right, then what may have been da Vinci’s greatest masterpiece will get a second opportunity to see the light of day…and to dazzle the world.