Search for mysterious Leonardo mural called off

Ron Recinto

A quest to find what some call "The Lost Leonardo" has been put on hold, keeping alive a mystery of a possible hidden Leonardo mural in Italy.

Researchers, after a petition from artist historians, put on indefinite hold the search for a long-lost mural by Leonardo da Vinci called the "Battle of the Anghiari" that is believed to be tucked behind a frescoed wall in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence's 14th-century city hall, Discovery News reports.

According to Maurizio Seracini, director of the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology at the University of California, San Diego, the Leonardo work is tucked behind another mural know as the "Battle of Marciano," painted in the 15th century by Giorgio Vasari. Leonardo's work was commissioned to include horses and men in a battle over a standard, which was to honor a Florentine victory over Milanese troops in 1440, according to Discovery News.

Seracini is the only nonfictional living character in Dan Brown's popular novel "The Da Vinci Code."

And, as in the book and subsequent movie, a clue helped researchers on a path of discovery.

In this case, the only words in all of Vasari's "Battle of Marciano" are inscribed on a tiny green flag and they read: "Cerca trova" which translated means "seek and you shall find."

Seracini began searching 10 months ago for Leonardo's giant mural from 1503 that some consider one of his greatest works, by drilling six tiny holes into Vasari's painting. The probes went through four inches of brick in search of evidence of  Leonardo's "Battle of Anghiari."

What he found were pigments that matched paint samples similar to those Leonardo used in the Mona Lisa. Seracini's probes also confirmed the existence of an air gap between the current mural and the wall that Leonardo would have painted on. Seracini says Vasari created the space in order to preserve Leonardo's masterpiece, according to Discovery News.

However some called the probes an intrusion on the art of the historic Florence building. Then several artist-historians signed a petition to halt the drilling.

"Vasari would have never covered a work by an artist he admired so much in the hope that one day someone would search and find it. You would expect such a hypothesis from Dan Brown, certainly not from art historians," Tomaso Montanari, an art historian at the University Federico II in Naples told Discovery News.

Authorities recently allowed the drill holes to be filled in and the scaffolding removed.

The quest for "The Lost Leonardo" which was also documented by National Geographic, seems to have ended for now.