Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci’s lost fresco has long been the subject of study and investigation. Over the centuries many historical references have been made to the Battle of Anghiari that Leonardo painted inside the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence. The fresco is often referred to as one of da Vinci’s masterpieces, but today it no longer exists and in its alleged place on the wall of the Salone del Cinquecento is now another fresco, the Battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana by Giorgio Vasari.
Last week’s discovery of a cavity behind Vasari’s fresco sparked hope for the discovery of da Vinci’s lost fresco. Theories that Vasari did not destroy the original frescoes, but had rather saved Leonardo’s work behind his own, resurfaced.
Director of the Museums of Florence Antonio Paolucci was quick to explain that even if Vasari had been ordered to paint his fresco by fearsome ruler Cosimo de’ Medici, he would never have destroyed a masterpiece of Leonardo’s, had it actually been on the wall. Paolucci went on to say that although the splendid Battle of Anghiari might have adorned the wall in question, it was most likely destroyed by Leonardo’s own painting techniques long before Vasari started to think about his fresco.
Leonardo used a very unconventional painting method that turned out to be problematic, as is evidenced by his Last Supper fresco in Milan, which started crumbling shortly after it was completed. Paolucci, along with other city officials, believes that, at best, a bit of colour might still be stuck on the walls behind Vasari’s works. They do not want to tamper with what is considered another masterpiece, Vasari’s existing 15th century work, until they are assured that something of value lies behind it.
The Director of the Medieval and Renaissance Painting Department of the Uffizi, Alessandro Cecchi, also responded to the recent discovery by stating that it was time to stop chasing after chimeras.
There are scientific experts, however, who strongly disagree, the most vocal advocate being Maurizio Saracini. Besides his claim-to-fame as the only real-life character in Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code, Seracini is also a sort of self-taught expert in technological art research. He has long advocated that Leonardo’s fresco still exists and has executed numerous tests on the area in question. When he discovered that there was a wall behind Vasari’s fresco, Seracini immediately pointed out that something must be hidden behind it.
Also supporting the existence of Leonardo’s fresco is the odd inscription in Vasari’s own fresco that reads, “chi cerca trova” (who looks finds), a clue that Seracini is convinced refers to the masterpiece he has now dedicated his life to discovering.
Although all research has currently come to a halt by ordinance of city officials, Seracini is hopeful that with newfound support from the regional government, he may soon be able to continue his work to reveal the truth of this age-old myth.