By Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825, firstname.lastname@example.org
San Diego, CA, April 22, 2008 -- The most-watched news program on American television showcased the work of Calit2 researcher Maurizio Seracini in its April 20 edition. In a segment called "The Lost Leonardo", correspondent Morley Safer recounted the UC San Diego researcher's 33-year-old quest to locate the long-lost Leonardo da Vinci mural, "The Battle of Anghiari" -- a search to solve what CBS termed one of the most enduring mysteries of the art world.
"For centuries, it has been assumed the work was destroyed, painted over or simply faded away long ago," reported Safer. "Now, after three decades of battling skepticism and bureaucratic resistance, an art detective named Maurizio Seracini believes he's close to solving the Leonardo mystery by suggesting the mural hasn't been lost at all, but is right where it's always been - for 500 hundred years." In other words, on the east wall of the Hall of the 500, in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, where Seracini is currently spending about half his time.
Seracini is the director of the Calit2-based Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3), a collaboration between Calit2 at UC San Diego, the Jacobs School of Engineering, and UCSD's Division of Arts and Humanities. Seracini was also named a National Geographic Fellow earlier this year and the National Geographic Society is supporting the project.
60 Minutes crews, led by producer David Browning, have followed Seracini since before the official start of the Anghiari project in October 2007. The report was shot at various time in Florence, San Diego and New York.
According to Safer, "at the University of California, San Diego, Seracini presides over an extremely high-tech center for diagnosing the health of art treasures, helping to figure out how to restore fragile paintings, even buildings. A tiny fleck of paint can yield answers to who did the work, and when. Seracini has mapped out the Palazzo Vecchio in astonishing detail, using images 100 times sharper than any high definition television."
The CBS correspondent was referring to the HIPerSpace tiled display wall, the largest of its kind in the world, with the ability to spread images and video across all 220 million pixels.
"We have managed to see every single brick. Every single stone that is there. As never done before," Seracini is quoted saying.
The segment also showcased technology deployed at Calit2 that allows the viewer to "walk into" a Leonardo masterpiece, in this case, da Vinci's "Adoration of the Magi". As Safer reported, "His computers in San Diego allow us to walk into the painting, taking us beneath the surface, revealing a world of detail obscured for five centuries -- including a frenzied battle scene, similar to Anghiari." The technology was developed by Calit2 researchers Jurgen Schulze and Philip Weber.
The 60 Minutes report followed Seracini into the materials characterization lab with Bernd Fruhberger, manager of the Nano3 cleanroom wing of Atkinson Hall, and to the San Diego Museum of Art, where he was shown at work with Calit2 researcher Javier Rodriguez Molina and others, scanning one of the Renaissance paintings that are part of a CISA3 project to prototype a "digital clinical chart" for works of art. The report also shows CISA3 engineers stitching together images captured in Florence. "The flood of data represents every substance that might be hiding Leonardo's painting, " noted Safer. "By eliminating them, Seracini should be left with a dim representation of what lies beneath in the Palazzo Vecchio."
Also depicted during the program: the room at Calit2 where Seracini stores what the television report calls "a precious cargo of bricks stored away during renovations of the palazzo." "They'll be painted with the same pigments we know that Leonardo favored, and then used to calibrate newer, more powerful instruments," reported Safer. "And with luck, by year's end, Maurizio Seracini will know the outcome of his 30-year quest."