I caught the premiere of Finding The Lost da Vinci on the National Geographic Channel earlier, and urge you to tune in to one of its sure-to-be-many repeat airings. The lost work in question is Leonardo's mural The Battle of Anghiari (1505), long thought to exist on a wall behind the wall on which Giorgio Vasari painted the Battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana (1563) in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. We know the Leonardo was there; supporting documentation abounds, and artists were able to copy it for over 50 years. What we don't know is whether it was destroyed and the area repainted, or if Vasari had it walled off. Enter scientist Dr. Maurizio Seracini, Director of the University of California San Diego's Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology.
Dr. Seracini has devoted nearly 40 years of his life trying to track down The Battle of Anghiari. He made many trips to Florence to scan the walls of the Hall of the 500, the area in the Palazzo Vecchio where the Leonardo mural was located. Armed with years of data, and a glaring anomaly in standard wall construction (a "dead" space behind part of the visible wall), Dr. Seracini was finally given the go-ahead to drill 14 very, very small holes through the Vasari mural in two weeks at the end of November 2011. Are you with me so far?
Well, what happened next perfectly illustrates the politics of the Art World. Dr. Seracini was given permission by the mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi. However, the head of the museum (for that is what the Palazzo Vecchio is these days) had other ideas. A race against time ensued and, along the way, we learn intriguing bits and pieces about Leonardo's material list for the mural, Leonardo's connection to the -- believe it or not -- Japanese Yakuza, and How To Gin Up the Media 101. No further spoilers from me, just my overall opinion that Finding The Lost da Vinci is worth watching to witness the gamesmanship, alone. Catch it when you can. In the meantime, here is the trailer.
Photo: Florence, Italy: Dr. Maurizio Seracini threads an endoscope into the 500 year old wall to look for the lost Leonardo da Vinci. Photo Credit: David Yoder