Detecting and Reflecting on the Leonardo Cover-up
On April 21, 2002 the New York Times Magazine showcased the compelling, technology driven art diagnostician discovery of Maurizio Seracini.Mr. Seracini who has utilized technology, in particular sonograms, to perform routine checkups on various masterpieces for the Uffizi and the Louvre, was brought in by the Uffizi to help settle an International dispute over whether Leonardo's unfinished the Adoration of the Magi was too fragile to be restored. On the basis of a complete battery of tests he advised them not to go ahead with the restoration.
Beyond his recommendation Seracini had a startling revelation to make to NY Times reporter Melinda Henneberger.The results of his extensive test revealed beyond any doubt that: "None of the paint we see on the adoration today was put there by Leonardo. God knows who did it, but it was not Leonardo."Seracini credits Leonardo with the gray-green underdrawing but claims that someone came along behind the master, traced his work in some places, reinterpreted it in other spots and made individual additions of his own which were decidedly inferior to Leonardo's drawing and anatomy skills as evidenced by the Madonna's right foot which has pointed toes and the baby's foot which looks like its carved out of wood.The images beneath the paint of the 'Adoration' which were revealed by infrared reflectography transforms the 'Adoration' scene from one which depicts a world in ruins to one that celebrates a world of reconstruction at the beginning of the Renaissance.
Ironically Seracini an engineer who studied medicine but has become a premier art diagnostician, believes Leonardo, a man of science,would be most approving of the technology used to demonstrate that he did not paint the 'Adoration'.
Seracini's next Leonardo case is a search which has spanned over three decades. He is looking for Leonardo's Battle of Anghiari. He believes that this large fresco lies behind the wall in the Hall of the 500 in the Pallazo Veccio.It will take him a year to develop a portable low frequency sonogram machine capable of penetrating through the Vasari built Walls.
Seracini's ongoing state of the art pioneering efforts are redirecting and reframing our Leonardo studies knowledge base. The work of Serchini and others like him, in what will be come a more crowded and pivital field-- art diagnosticians or as commonly called "Art Detectives" raises issues about the extent to which scientific inquiry can and should be used as a tool for art studies.
As Leonardo enthusiast we welcome your thoughts, reactions and responses to Seracini's work.
Uffizi Halts Plans to Restore
Leonardo's Adoration of the Magi
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