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Maurizio Seracini is a diagnostician of Italian art. A '73 UCSD Alumus, graduated in bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), he founded, in 1977, the first company in Italy for diagnostic and non-destructive analyses on art and architecture, the Editech srl, Diagnostic Center for Cultural Heritage in Florence. Adapting technologies from the medical and military fields and other technical measuring instruments he has made possible diagnostics of art and search for art without destroying the artwork itself. Seracini has been well known for his search for the Leonardo da Vinci mural, The Battle of Anghiari in the Salone dei Cinquecento, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence and for his diagnostic survey on Da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi.

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..

Mystery of Leonardo's lost work 'almost solved'

By Malcolm Moore 05/03/2008


The mystery surrounding Leonardo Da Vinci's lost masterpiece, the Battle of Anghiari, is on the verge of being solved, according to an art historian leading the search. Professor Maurizio Seracini said he will use a revolutionary new technology to discover whether the fresco, which has not been seen since 1563, lies behind a wall in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. "This is an incredibly important moment," he said on Tuesday.

Prof. Seracini, who is mentioned in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, has been searching for the Battle of Anghiari for over 30 years. He believes it was deliberately hidden by Giorgio Vasari, the artist and art historian, in order to preserve it. The Battle of Anghiari was commissioned in 1503 after Piero de Medici was deposed as ruler of Florence and the city was briefly proclaimed a republic.

According to Vasari, there was a "public decree" that Leonardo should paint something to mark the republic and was granted a space in the Hall of the Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio. The fresco, which is three times the size of Leonardo's Last Supper wall painting in Milan, was described by Benvenuto Cellini, the sculptor, as a "ground-breaking masterpiece". Several preparatory sketches and copies of it still exist. However, the Medicis returned to power in the 1560s and Vasari was told to renovate the hall and to cover up Leonardo' work. He painted a new fresco in its place, the Battle of Marciano.

"I am sure that Vasari could not bring himself to destroy Da Vinci's finest work" said Prof. Seracini. Instead, he said, Vasari built a new wall in front of the fresco, leaving a gap of between one and three centimetres to preserve it. Prof. Seracini said Vasari had left a small clue at the very top of his new work, a flag bearing the inscription: "He who seeks shall find".

The flag is invisible from floor level. Until now, it has been impossible to "see" behind the second wall.

However, Prof. Seracini said he would use "neutron analysis" to detect certain colours, since the paints used by Vasari and Leonardo differed. Leonardo used mineral-based paints, while Vasari painted with oils. The neutrons will be fired through the wall and the rays that bounce back should reveal if there is any paint on the back wall.

Prof. Seracini's specially-designed machine cost £450,000 and the £750,000 total cost of the project has been funded by Loel Guinness, a scion of the brewing family. The work will begin in October and be finished by January. "Leonardo kept a lot of lists. We have the chemical compositions of the paints. We are looking for an intense blue, made with lapis lazuli, in particular," said Prof. Seracini. Prof. Seracini's most famous discoveries include the hand of another artist in Da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi.
 
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci born, April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519, was a Tuscan polymath; a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. Born at Vinci in the region of Florence, the illegitimate son of a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant girl, Caterina, Leonardo was educated in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter, Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan where several of his major works were created. He also worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice, spending his final years in France at the home given him by King François I. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the "Renaissance man" or universal genius, a man whose seemingly infinite curiosity was equalled only by his powers of invention. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.

It is primarily as a painter that Leonardo was and is renowned. Two of his works, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper occupy unique positions as the most famous, most reproduced and most parodied portrait and religious painting of all time, their fame approached only by Michelangelo's Creation of Adam. Leonardo's drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also iconic. Perhaps fifteen paintings survive, the small number due to his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques, and his chronic procrastination. Nevertheless these few works, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, comprise a contribution to later generations of artists only rivalled by that of his contemporary, Michelangelo.

As an engineer, Leonardo conceived ideas vastly ahead of his own time, conceptualising a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, and the double hull, and outlining a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime, but some of his smaller inventions, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded.As a scientist, he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics.

Within Leonardo's own lifetime his fame was such that the King of France carried him away like a trophy, and was claimed to have supported him in his old age and held him in his arms as he died. Vasari, in his "Lives of the Artists" written about thirty years after Leonardo's death, described him as having talents that "transcended nature". The interest in Leonardo has never slackened. The crowds still queue to see his most famous artworks, T-shirts bear his most famous drawing and writers, like Vasari, continue to marvel at his genius and speculate about his private life and, particularly, about what one so intelligent actually believed in.

Giorgio Vasari, in his "Lives of the Artists", in its enlarged edition of 1568 introduces his chapter on Leonardo da Vinci with the following words:'In the normal course of events many men and women are born with remarkable talents; but occasionally, in a way that transcends nature, a single person is marvellously endowed by Heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind, all his actions seem inspired and indeed everything he does clearly comes from God rather than from human skill. Everyone acknowledged that this was true of Leonardo da Vinci, an artist of outstanding physical beauty, who displayed infinite grace in everything that he did and who cultivated his genius so brilliantly that all problems he studied he solved with ease.'

The continued admiration that Leonardo commanded from painters, critics and historians is reflected in many other written tributes. Baldassare Castiglione, author of Il Cortegiano ("The Courtier"), wrote in 1528: "… Another of the greatest painters in this world looks down on this art in which he is unequalled …"while the biographer known as "Anonimo Gaddiano" wrote, c. 1540: "His genius was so rare and universal that it can be said that nature worked a miracle on his behalf …" The 19th century brought a particular admiration for Leonardo's genius, causing H. Fuseli to write in 1801: "Such was the dawn of modern art, when Leonardo da Vinci broke forth with a splendour that distanced former excellence: made up of all the elements that constitute the essence of genius …" This is echoed by A. E. Rio who wrote in 1861: "He towered above all other artists through the strength and the nobility of his talents."

By the 19th century, the scope of Leonardo's notebooks was known, as well as his paintings. H. Taine wrote in 1866: "There may not be in the world an example of another genius so universal, so incapable of fulfilment, so full of yearning for the infinite, so naturally refined, so far ahead of his own century and the following centuries." The famous art historian Bernard Berenson wrote in 1896: "Leonardo is the one artist of whom it may be said with perfect literalness: Nothing that he touched but turned into a thing of eternal beauty. Whether it be the cross section of a skull, the structure of a weed, or a study of muscles, he, with his feeling for line and for light and shade, forever transmuted it into life-communicating values."

The interest in Leonardo's genius has continued unabated; experts study and translate his writings, analyse his paintings using scientific techniques, argue over attributions and search for works which have been recorded but never found. Liana Bortolon, writing in 1967, says: "Because of the multiplicity of interests that spurred him to pursue every field of knowledge, … Leonardo can be considered, quite rightly, to have been the universal genius par excellence, and with all the disquieting overtones inherent in that term. Man is as uncomfortable today, faced with a genius, as he was in the 16th century. Five centuries have passed, yet we still view Leonardo with awe."





See also
Da Vinci's Last Supper: New conspiracy theory
Polymath: ‘A Renaissance Man’

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