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Friday, December 7, 2007

Lost and Found

Things just keep popping up these days. The “Tres Personajes” painting in Manhattan, the fossil of a giant sea scorpion in Germany, the mummified dinosaur in North Dakota, the ancient Roman wooden throne in the site of the ancient city of Herculaneum. Now, a drawing by Michelangelo. Yes, THAT old master.


Vatican finds lost Michelangelo drawing, his last
Thu Dec 6, 12:55 PM ET

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican said on Thursday it had discovered a lost drawing by Renaissance master Michelangelo of a design for the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican newspaper l'Osservatore Romano said the small drawing, done in the spring of 1563 when Michelangelo was 88, was believed to be his last known sketch before he died the next year.

The drawing, a section of the dome, contains some measurements and is thus believed to have been done to give stone cutters guidance after the master deemed work on an earlier batch of stone inadequate.

Michelangelo worked as the architect of the basilica from 1547 until shortly before his death in 1564.

The newspaper said Michelangelo, who destroyed many of his sketches for the basilica, probably drew it on the construction site, giving it directly to workmen with his instructions.

Drawn with blood-colored chalk on paper, it apparently survived because part of the paper had been used again for calculations, perhaps by workmen. It wound up by accident in files concerning the costs of the basilica's construction.

The newspaper said the drawing would be presented to the media on Monday.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella)

Which reminds me… I stumbled upon this article over a year ago about the “discovery” of Da Vinci’s long lost “Battle of Anghiari”… (searching…)

Yup, it’s still on the web. Here it is (from

Long-Lost Da Vinci Masterpiece Found Behind Palazzo Walls
Published: 16:13 EST, June 17, 2005

It could be a scene from the "Da Vinci Code:" A high-tech art sleuth finds a hollow space behind an Italian palazzo’s murals, and believes he may have discovered a Da Vinci masterpiece not seen since 1563.

In a case of life imitating art, Maurizio Seracini, an internationally recognized expert in high-technology art analysis, has done just that – and, in an odd twist, he does indeed appear, as himself, in Dan Brown’s popular bestseller about secrets hidden in Leonardo’s work – the book’s only non-fictional character.

Battle of AnghiariImage: Detail from a copy of Leonardo da Vinci's long-lost "Battle of Anghiari," based on preliminary sketches and copies of the work during the artist's life. Maurizio Seracini, a noted art conservation and authentication expert, believes the fresco is hidden behind an existing fresco by the artist Giorgio Vasari in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. Credit: The Louvre, Paris.

(In the “Da Vinci Code”, Seracini uses his investigational skills to show that Leonardo’s “Adoration of the Magi” has been painted over by other artists and can no longer be considered a true Da Vinci.)

Seracini, 55, an alumnus of the University of California, San Diego and a native Florentine, thinks he may be close to finding the lost fresco “Battle of Anghiari” behind murals by Giorgio Vasari in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. Using radar, x-rays and other devices, he discovered a narrow cavity behind the Vasari fresco “Battle of
Marciano,” and believes that the latter artist, an admirer of the great Leonardo, intentionally created the space to preserve the master’s work.

“Leonardo’s ‘Battle of Anghiari’ was considered the highest work of art of the Renaissance at that time,” Seracini said. “For over 50 years afterwards, documents spoke of the wonderful horses of Leonardo with the highest admiration.”

If he and other researchers can prove that the Vasari murals conceal a greater treasure, “it may be possible,” Seracini believes, “to remove the Vasari fresco and the wall behind, extract Leonardo’s mural, and finally put the Vasari back in place.”

Seracini, who heads Editech -- a Florence-based company he founded in 1977 focused on the “diagnostics of cultural heritage” -- estimates that he’s worked on some 2,000 paintings, including 31 works by Raphael and three others by Da Vinci. Most of his equipment, he says, has been adapted from medical devices. Infrared,
thermographic, ultraviolet and other kinds of scanners allow him to see images
behind a painting’s visible layers.

Now those high-tech tools have peered behind a mural, into a palazzo’s walls, to find another mural, long thought destroyed or lost to the ages.

Art historians have known that “Battle of Anghiari” existed from early sketches, from the copies made by Da Vinci contemporaries, and from the writings of those who saw it – one of whom described it as “miraculous.”

Seracini received his bachelor’s degree from UCSD’s Revelle College in 1973; he majored in applied mathematics and bioengineering, and spoke at his alma mater in April, as a Bioengineering Distinguished Lecturer, on “The Role of Science in Conservation of Cultural Heritage.” In 1975, he received a degree in electronic engineering from the University of Padua in Italy.

He credits his UCSD teachers – who had him experiment with lasers on fragments of blackened marble from Venice and Florence – with the spark that “ignited a long-lasting desire to blend art and science.”

During his time as a student in San Diego, he also traveled to UCLA to study under Carlo Pedretti, a scholar of Renaissance art and a specialist in Da Vinci.

It was his mentor Pedretti, seeking a non-invasive way to search for Leonardo’s masterpiece, who steered Seracini to the murals in the Palazzo Vecchio.

The long-lost fresco Seracini may have found is also known by its Anglicized title “Battle of Angiers.” Begun in 1505, the painting is considered by many art historians to be Leonardo’s most important – and largest – masterpiece. Vasari, commissioned by the Medici family in 1593 to remodel the palazzo’s hall, might have covered the unfinished work with a wall.

Most art historians believe, says Seracini, that even if the incomplete Da Vinci fresco is behind the wall, it may have deteriorated beyond salvation. Like the doctor he studied to be, he takes a physician’s detached approach to the prospect. “We’ll investigate,” he says, “and see.” It’s the code Da Vinci himself might have followed.

Source: University of California, San Diego

So, has Seracini, or anyone for that matter, proven or confirmed the “discovery” yet?


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