Search for Da Vanci work is controversial

Jan. 18, 2012 at 8:25 PM
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FLORENCE, Italy, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. and Italian art historians say they believe a work by Leonardo da Vinci may be hidden behind a Florence palace wall covered by a later 16th-century fresco.

The dramatic battle scene in the Palazzo Vecchio, the work of Renaissance artist Georgio Vasari, may be covering an even older work by Leonardo, "The Battle of Anghiari," they say. Leonardo died in 1519 and the age of 67.

Researchers are using tablet computers to compare decades of studies that shot energy through the wall at various wavelengths, producing shadowy pictures of ancient fissures, bricked-over windows and a mysterious air pocket, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

But while those previous studies were non-invasive, Maurizio Seracini of UC San Diego's Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology and his team are using high-tech methods to consider a controversial action: choosing locations to drill small holes through the Vasari fresco to allow tiny cameras to get a look behind it.

Critics say such an attempt would constitute archaeological malpractice.

"It's absurd to think that Vasari enclosed the Leonardo behind the wall," said Tomaso Montanari, an art history professor at the University of Naples and the author of a petition against the proposed drilling.

"It's a little childish, like a Dan Brown conspiracy," he said, referring to the wildly popular novel "The Da Vinci Code."

Seracini said he is undaunted by the criticism.

"I'm very honored to search for the ultimate masterpiece," he said from his Florence office. "If that means I'm Don Quixote, perhaps I am."

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