An Interview with Maurizio Serracini

The man behind the real Da Vinci mystery

Nita Tucker
November 2, 2006

For centuries, the whereabouts of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterwork, a painting of the Battle of Anghiari, has been one of the art world’s greatest mysteries. This painting, said to be the ‘school of the world,’ has sparked debate among contemporary artists, who suggest that it was the greatest of all the Renaissance masterpieces. After a 30-year quest, art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini thinks he has found the answer to the missing Da Vinci artwork mystery.  If this is true, he will have cracked the real Da Vinci code and the Palazzo Vecchio could very well become one of the most important museums in the world. In fact, Dr. Seracini is the only real person mentioned in Dan Brown’s novel.  Thanks to his investigative skills and expertise, Seracini has used state of the art technology to show that Leonardo’s Adoration of the Magi has been painted over by another artist and can no longer be considered a true Da Vinci..

 

How did you become involved in the search for the missing Da Vinci?

 

I was born in Florence, and I always knew  that I wanted to be a doctor.  I foresaw  that the future of medicine lies in technology, so I decided to study engineering as an undergraduate at the University of California in San Diego. During my time in California, I also studied  Renaissance art.  Although I was later accepted into medical school, I couldn’t attend because I  had been ‘called’ back to Italy to serve in the army.  One day,  while looking out my office window on Via Ghibellina, I ran into my former art history professor, Dr.  Pedretti, who  was trying to use non-invasive methods to find the missing Da Vinci in the Palazzo Vecchio.  Pedretti told me that I should use all the  engineering technology I had learned to help find the fresco. Before that time, not even medical laboratories were using ultrasound, much less art historians.

 

What is it that you do?  And what makes you think you have found the painting?

 

What I do is analyze the ‘anatomy’ of a work of art. Using equipment mostly adapted from medical devices, such as ultra-sound, infrared, thermographic and ultraviolet devices, we can evaluate the materials used to create a work, its age, its state of wear and tear, and the exposure level of the materials involved. These scanners allow us to see the images that lie beneath a painting’s visible layers. Almost 30 years ago, we found the words circa trova–seek and ye shall find—written on a tiny flag high up on one of the walls in the Palazzo Vecchio.  It is the only writing on any of the flags. It flies very high, higher than the human eye can see, in one of six murals commissioned to commemorate victories by the Medici and to obliterate those celebrating the triumphs of the Republic. If our theory is correct, this later mural covers Da Vinci’s masterpiece. 

 

The painting’s existence is postulated only through copies made by admiring artists which have survived. Leonardo’s contract for the painting was signed in 1503 by Niccolo Machiavelli—yes that Machiavelli—to commemorate the victory of the Florentines over the Milanese in 1440.  The painting is thought to depict both the savagery of battle and the grace and beauty of the men and horses caught up in a seminal moment of the battle’s ferocity. 

 

I am sure that Vasari,  the artist who painted the work now visible in the Sala del Gran Consiglio, could not bring himself to destroy Leonardo’s finest work.  So he left a tiny clue written on the flag in the uppermost section of his mural.  We know that  Vasari  was awed by Leonardo’s achievement. It was Vasari who wrote, ‘It would be impossible to express the inventiveness of Leonardo’s design for the soldiers’ uniforms which he sketched in all of their variety including the crests of the helmets and other ornaments not to mention the incredible skill he demonstrated in representing the shape and features of the horses. Leonardo, better than any other master, truly captured their boldness, muscles and graceful beauty.’ Vasari had the habit of preserving masterpieces, like when he protected the Masaccio’s Holy Trinity in Santa Maria Novella in much the same way. 

 

What is the story behind the ‘controversy’  regarding Da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi in the Uffizi?

 

After many detailed studies and tests, we revealed that the paint on Adoration of the Magi held by the Uffizi was not applied by Leonardo.  Leonardo did the original sketch for the work that was commissioned in 1481. The paint—and we proved this scientifically—was actually not applied until up to a century later. 

 

There is an important connection between the Uffizi’s painting and the one hidden in the Palazzo Vecchio.  Our infrared reflectography techniques reveal that Leonardo’s original drawing for the Adoration depicted a scene reminiscent of the battle scene in the lost Battle of Anghiari. This secret lies under later additions made by an unknown person who painted over Leonardo’s drawing for the Adoration. The controversy is that the Uffizi was not happy with my discovery.  In fact, for a few years, they didn’t want me anywhere near the place.

 

The search for the lost Leonardo da Vinci mural is being funded by Loel Guinness, heir to the brewing company fortune.

 

 

Florence-based Artviva Exclusive Experiences offers  the unique opportunity to visit  the Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio with Dr. Seracini. Visitors can experience first-hand the search for the lost Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece and Seracini’s revolutionary methods of detecting centuries old secrets of the art world.

For more information about Artviva’s  Exclusive Experiences (universities and schools are given special discounted rates) visit: www.italy.artviva.com or phone 055 2645033

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