The Italian Almanac

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the battle of Anghiari - Rubens

Da Vinci's Secret

The discovery of black paint similar to that used in the Mona Lisa has spurred fresh hope that Leonardo da Vinci's fabled lost fresco The Battle of Anghiari may be hidden behind a wall in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. "We also found red and beige, other colours typical of Leonardo," said team leader Maurizio Seracini. "We're definitely looking behind the right wall," said Florence cultural heritage superintendent Cristina Acidini. The fresco is believed to have been hidden by painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari when he was commissioned to do another fresco in Florence's municipal headquarters.

Evidence claiming the fabled fresco was behind a secret wall in Palazzo Vecchio was first presented seven years ago. But experts weren't sure about it, and officials initially balked at the idea of knocking through the later wall painting by Vasari in the Salone dei Cincequento. Despite misgivings, Florence authorities gave the green light to the drillers, who punched a hole in the Vasari.

Seracini has been yearning to get close to the rumoured Anghiari fresco for the last 36 years and has written several books on it. Chemical testing has already been lined up for the colours that were found on Monday. Seracini is confident the Leonardo is close to being uncovered and will be in good shape. "I expect the state of conservation (of the fresco) to be good, or in any case the same as it was when the original wall was covered by the Vasari," he said.