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Evidence of Lost Da Vinci Fresco Behind Florentine Wall 114

Lev13than writes "Art historians working in Florence's city hall claim to have found evidence of Leonardo da Vinci's lost Battle of Anghiari fresco. Painted in 1505, the fresco was covered over by a larger mural during mid-16th Century palace renovations. Historians have long speculated that the original work was protected behind a false wall. Attempts to reveal the truth have been complicated by the need to protect Vasari's masterpiece, Battle of Marciano, that now graces the room. By drilling small holes into previously-restored sections of Vasari's fresco, researchers used endoscopic cameras and probes to determine that a second wall does exist. They further claim that the hidden wall is adorned with pigments consistent with Leonardo's style. The research has set off a storm of controversy between those who want to find the lost work and others who believe that it is gone, and that further exploration risks destroying the existing artwork."
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Evidence of Lost Da Vinci Fresco Behind Florentine Wall

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  • by EnempE ( 709151 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @03:51AM (#39336391)
    Those magic scanners can see anything through anything right ?
  • But I have a real urge to spew out a YO DAWG meme right now.

  • Photos (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarwinSurvivor ( 1752106 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @04:59AM (#39336591)
    Ok, so they used sonar, photos, fiber optic cameras, extracted paint samples and a bunch of other fancy stuff to determine that a lost painting was present on a false wall behind a priceless mural and yet none of the pictures show ANY of this. If this is seriously a "research" project, why are they not posting pictures of the sonar, photos from the fiber optic camera or readings from the paint samples instead of just a bunch of "scientists" standing together for group shots? the closest they have is some student looking at a macbook that's mostly covered by a plant.
    • I, personally, liked the pristine lab coats. Always a good sign of Quality Science.

  • Explore! Explore! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ( 886486 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @04:59AM (#39336595) Homepage

    I just don't understand the reasoning of those that say furthet exploration is so damaging.

    Who cares?

    The painting was made for our perusal, not to secretly safekeep behind a 2nd wall. It would be saying the painting has some intrinsic value, that would still exist even when the world had been overrun by zombies.

    If we uncover the painting we have the means to protect it, And make copies, to extend human knowledge.

    • by moozey ( 2437812 )
      Why destroy an existing work of art in hope of finding one that might not be there? Seems pretty obvious to me...
      • Existing work is visible and documented, can be re-created.
        Hidden work is not visible and documentation on it is not so good that it can be recreated.
        Technically a 3rd piece of art can be created over top of them both... to have future cultural value - not really obvious to me.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Copies have already been made before the second wall was constructed. See e.g.
      And there is an important painting on the second wall as well.

    • by igb ( 28052 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @05:54AM (#39336777)

      It's not the damage to the purported painting behind the wall, it's the damage to the integrity of a building whose decorations have been in situ for over four hundred years. They're not talking about drilling holes in a wall painted with magnolia emulsion to get at whatever lies behind, rather doing serious damage to frescos by Vasari. That requires that you believe the remains of a painting which Leonardo himself severely damaged with braziers and part melted off the wall are of more intrinsic worth than the long-standing paintings by a non-trivial figure than have been on the walls of that room since it was given its present form. There are other artists apart from Leonardo, you know.

      Google Translate does a reasonable job of the Italia Nostra press release ( which is worth reading. That television funding has been made available for the work is dubious, to say the least: they're not going to care about Vasari, are they?

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      The painting's been behind a wall for the last X hundred years. How much better do you think preservation can get?

      Modern preservation techniques range from having to combat mould, damp, humidity, dryness, insect infestation, frame cracking, etc. to just plain vandalism-proofing. Go read all the stuff that's been done to the Mona Lisa (the one painting most people would agree should be touched and played with as little as physically possible). The reason this hidden painting has survived so long is becaus

      • The painting's been behind a wall for the last X hundred years. How much better do you think preservation can get?

        By modern standards, conditions can get far better. You're assuming that conditions "in situ" are the best option for preservation. The only thing guaranteed by being hidden is that the work was safe from vandalism and ineffective attempts at preservation/repair. For all we know generations of mice have been trimming their teeth on Leonardo's work.

      • by mfarah ( 231411 ) <miguel @ f a r a> on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:00AM (#39337557) Homepage

        If you had to tear down a Picasso to get to a 'da Vinci', you can't make that decision on your own.

        I know what your point is, but I have to say this anyway:

        If you have to tear up a Picasso to get to a 'da Vinci', by all means do it! And trash some of Miró's paintings while you're at it, for an added bonus. }:->

        (I'm from Catalunya, BTW, and I can't stand either of them)

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      I agree on the exploration, but it DOES matter that we don't damage/destroy one thing in order to obtain something else of equal merit. By waiting a little longer, you may be able to have both. Further, damage to the hidden painting due to light and the modern atmosphere should be limited as far as possible.

      In fact, I'm not sure we have to "wait" in order to obtain an image of what is behind the second wall. There's presumably an airgap, and autonomous robots are quite capable of operating in those kinds of

  • by igb ( 28052 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @05:37AM (#39336721)

    The problem now is that we're heading into "stuff that Leonardo stood on the other side of the road to is touched with his genius" obsession.

    I recently went to the (London) National Gallery Leonardo exhibition, at which a substantial proportion of his surviving works were brought together (both Madonna of the Rocks, for example) and the paintings that survive in a decent condition are astoundingly good: you can argue the toss about the relative merits of Da Vinci, Velasquez, Rembrandt and the rest, but that's the company he's clearly keeping.

    However, what you don't get in an exhibition of Velasquez to anything like the same extent is the huge slew of "school of", "preparatory sketch for", "disputed", "attributed" and so on. There's plenty of Velasquez (or Goya, or Titian, or at a slightly less major level Turner) to go around, and therefore there's not the same perceived need to drag up everything last scrap of paper. A lot of the stuff that's of disputed provenance (or even, in the case of Salvator Mundi, is of broadly accepted provenance) wouldn't be held in anything like the esteem it is on purely artistic grounds --- Salvator Mundi was sold without the attribution for less than fifty quid just over fifty years ago, for example, and even though otherwise sensible people can write of Madonna of the Yarnwinder "The merest touch of Leonardo's genius is better than almost anyone else's signature work" ( there's a real whiff of idolatry to this attitude. Clearly, if you want to be regarded highly as an artist, make sure a lot of your paintings decay and you have only a small pool of material for later enthusiasts to obsess over.

    In this case, the chances of there being a recoverable painting are close to zero: there are accounts of the paint being melted off the wall with braziers. There's a copy by Reubens of the section that was completed, but a lot of the rest was lost anyway. The painting that's having holes drilled in it is a not inconsiderable piece. âoeBut if I had to choose, I would choose Leonardo,â rather gives the game away.

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @06:06AM (#39336793) Homepage

      Celebrity over talent. As I had a lengthy post about this on The Reg recently, I feel I need to comment.

      It's a problem with the modern definition of art. Now "art" is about something by a celebrity that "makes you think". Historically, art was about talent - something you can't just reproduce. Now literally anybody could "recreate" one of the modern works in an afternoon and it would be *indistinguishable* from the original. Modern artists were asked to provide works for the 2012 Olympics here in London. I was genuinely of the belief that they were children's drawings for the same until I read the caption properly.

      So even though Leonardo had obvious talent (and would NOT have been so famous otherwise), making works that only an expert painter could even approach, the modern art movement has to regard him as a celebrity in order to stay consistent. It's not about the "interpretation" of the "piece" rather than, say, the fact that it's a fucking good picture made with brushes and oils. Thus, you turn the value of the art from the talent used to create it to the celebrity name attached to it, and so any crappy sketch that could be attributed to him, some pillock will pay millions for so they can say "That's a 'da Vinci'". Not because it actually LOOKS good, or is a skilful piece of art.

      Art *was* never about interpretation, but skill. It was never about celebrity, except as a recognised talent. Just because Turner did a shit in his toilet bowl does not make that shit art.

      But, try and tell modern artists that and they laugh at you, mainly because they've redefined art to be something that they can be "good" at even if they are bad, and also something that they can claim you "don't understand". It started in the 1920's or thereabouts. Before that, if you did a crappy piece of art for your king, he'd have chopped your head off (or thereabouts).

      Admire the SKILL of the artist, not the name or the "thought process". There are still skilful artists out there, but you won't find them in the Tate because they aren't "arty" enough.

      • Many mod points! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @08:35AM (#39337337) Homepage

        Can I mod you up to 6 super-insightful?

        The art scene has become cultish, and actual talent has become secondary. I have had a couple of experiences in this area that really put me off the art scene. One I particularly recall, from many years ago: the Albuquerque Airport had just spent some enormous sum on a new picture, and the art critics were all impressed. Enough so that I went to see it. The picture turned out to consist of a small red dot in the center of a large yellow canvas. Hello? Aside from the fact that the colors matched the New Mexican flag, there was simply nothing there. A couple of minutes with a roller, 30 seconds with a brush. Perhaps the artist agonized about the precise size of the circle? Of course, you are supposed to feel inferior to the artsy, if you don't find deep meaning in such nonsense.

        • by ledow ( 319597 )

          This was my turning point:


          • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @10:05AM (#39338299) Homepage

            OMG! I thought you must be exaggerating until I saw the link. I especially liked this bit:

            Riley, who began her career using only black and white patterns, started to experiment with colour in 1967, the same year she began painting stripes.

            It's a very lovely picture, but I think Riley, having spent 45 years painting stripes, should consider painting other things as well. A nice horsey or doggy would be wonderful!

            • I would love to see the expression of the commentator when someone looks them with a straight face and says "It's bullshit. Show me real art"

            • by nitio ( 825314 )
              Once, back in high school, during an art class I had to make a sculpture out of clay.

              Turns out I know squat about sculpting and the best I could do was maybe two spheres pinned together with a toothpick or a cube. I just said "whatever", put them all together and started pinching it. It turned out something similar to, well, a pile of crap.

              When the teacher approached and asked what it represented I playfully said "The agony of all the kids with no food" and chuckled. I got an A for that. I've proved that
        • Years ago I saw (maybe on 60 Minutes, who knows) a clip about a woman who paid an artist to do an "installation" at her apartment for $10,000. It consisted of a 3" piece of rope nailed horizontally to the wall between the entranceway door hinge and the corner of the room. That's it. It just stuck in my mind as either a glaring example of "conspicuous consumption," or of one affluent person's vulnerability to a line of bullshit. (OTOH, maybe this was all a setup to get on 60 Minutes.)
        • Ahh Slashdot. Where are you going my little tech site?

          First, discussing makeup [].

          Now the Art scene.

          I'm going back to bed.... Maybe tomorrow this nightmare will be over.

      • Modern artists were asked to provide works for the 2012 Olympics here in London. I was genuinely of the belief that they were children's drawings for the same until I read the caption properly.

        It's not that skilled modern artists don't exist, ones who surpass any of the old masters even. It's that they don't have buddies in the right places to get the Olympics gig, apparently. The best painter of our day could be sitting in her rocking chair surrounded by 50 cats and buckets of paint, while drinking herself

      • If you want to enjoy skillful art, you're far better served at a farmer's market or country fair than at an exhibition in the city. And it's not about folk art, either-- I'm referring to adept use of color, figure, and light to depict a variety of scenes and subjects.
      • Gross over-simplification. No idea how this is supposed to be insightful.
      • I believe the following actually fits in with an aspect of the parent post, it does appear parent is making the case that Leonardo's scrap suffers from Celebrity over talent. God knows that can be and often is rampant to absurdity...and while I agree with the majority of sentiment here, I wish to make two addenda.

        Leonardo was more than a painter. He is well established as a multi-disciplined master, and a true genius. The quintessential renaissance man.

        Few artists scribbles have provided such insight into t

      • It started in the 1920's or thereabouts.

        It was about that time photography made big inroads and thousands of artists who made a decent living painting landscapes, river views, seascapes, and portraits of snooty rich people lost their means of earning a pay check. So they had to be "different" from photographs. "Realistic painting? Why would I pay you so much money for something a photogapher can do in a few minutes?". So art became "non-photograph".

      • by guises ( 2423402 )
        Look you're welcome to your opinion about the value of modern works but you're way off on this skill business, both qualitatively and chronologically - art hasn't been solely about skill since the middle ages. Da Vinci, incidentally, was one of the artists behind the push for painting and sculpting to be recognized as a liberal art. I'll link to a little non-exhaustive summary: []

        A lot of people criticize "modern art" as though it were a unified bod
  • I've seen Barnett Newman and I know it's all suggestion.
    Why not leave said walls alone, put up a sign and ticket-box, and be done with it.

    • I'll go one better. My idea for the ultimate "Eco-friendy art installation" - any open space (a wooded lot or open field would do well) with a spot for a person to pay, enter, and then leave. When they leave they get a piece of paper saying how much of a carbon impact they've had on the site so they can feel shitty about themselves.

      And yes, I claim copyright. Not because I want money; I just don't want some artsy douchebag to actually do this.

  • It'd be ironic if they destroyed the wall, instead of finding a Da Vinci masterpiece, found a dead cat.

  • ...DaVinci trumps Vasari. If Vasari's work can be preserved while extracting DaVinci's, fantastic. All due care should be taken, but give me a damaged DaVinci over an intact Vasari, any day of the week.
    • yes but the rub is that the DaVinci is far from a certainty. A Vasari in the hand as it were....
  • Can't you just access it from the other side of the wall? Thereby bypassing the Vasari entirely.
    • by lw54 ( 73409 )

      From my understanding, the issue is the painting is a fresco so the pigments have been added to the wall's plaster while it was still wet. If they came from the other side, it would require removing the entire wall intact. Still, I wonder if serious thought has been given to the idea.

  • Can't they use scanning equipment to see what's underneath the existing painting?

    I don't see the need to destroy the newer artwork merely to uncover a lost Leonardo da Vinci painting. It should be enough to know what it looks like. Maybe then hire some artist to reproduce it to display in museums.

  • The mayor of Florence is really pushing this on media - he's a major "bischero" who - just like any other politician - can't get enough attention
  • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @12:35PM (#39340005) Homepage Journal

    prior art?

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann