June 26, 2007 / By Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825, email@example.com
San Diego, CA, June 26, 2007-- The current issue of People magazine includes a two-page spread on "The Da Vinci Detective" -- a profile of Calit2's Maurizio Seracini, and his involvement in the search for a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci mural in Florence.
The magazine notes that da Vinci's masterpiece, The Battle of Anghiari , "was once considered one of the greatest paintings of the Renaissance. Then, mysteriously, it disappeared. Now, after a 32-year quest, art sleuth Maurizio Seracini thinks he has tracked it down."
The caption to a photo of Seracini in the Palazzo Vecchio's Hall of the 500, where da Vinci painted the Anghiari mural, quotes Seracini saying, "This is the biggest challenge of my career." Calling him a "high-tech art sleuth," the article fails to mention that Seracini is now based at UC San Diego, where he directs Calit2's new Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3).
The People magazine article, written by Joanne Fowler with reporting from Silvia Sansoni in Florence, notes that Seracini's earlier work earned him a mention in Dan Brown's bestseller, The Da Vinci Code . The article also notes that in 2002, after on-off testing using existing technologies, "Italian authorities, concerned about damage, blocked further exploration -- until this spring, when the Ministry of Culture okayed Seracini to begin his quest in earnest. Now Seracini must develop equipment to complete his work."
Indeed, on May 18, a committee to oversee the search for The Battle of Anghiari handed to Seracini the responsibility for all scientific work that is needed to confirm, once and for all, whether the da Vinci mural still exists, and if so, in what condition. Then on June 18, Seracini -- who sits on the committee -- outlined for his colleagues an 18-month plan to develop and deploy technology needed to "see" through the existing mural and a wall of bricks, to determine whether da Vinci's work has survived. This will involve construction of a mock wall at Calit2, using bricks and mortar from the same period when da Vinci painted his mural.
As part of the overall project, experts in art conservation will travel from Florence to San Diego to paint a mock-up of the Anghiari mural using the same materials that da Vinci is known to have used for other murals of that period. The wall will be used to test new devices under development to detect (non-destructively) what is behind the current mural and painting -- to ensure that when the equipment is moved to the Palazzo Vecchio, the system will determine once and for all whether the mural is still there.
The People article notes that 32 years ago, Seracini "spotted an early Italian motto -- 'Seek and you shall find' -- painted onto a fresco of the Battle of Scannagallo by Giorgio Vasari, a known fan of Leonardo's." Later, the magazine reports, "Using radar, in 2002 he discovered a narrow void behind the painting, perhaps created by Vasari to preserve Leonardo's treasure when he [Vasari] was hired to redecorate the palace."