The search for the Leonardo fresco fragment, commonly called The Battle of Anghiari - has captured the world's imagination. News reports, documentaries and online articles have provided updates on the progress of the search - with a focus on the controversies of Italian cultural politics and the romanticised battle Professor Maurizio Seracini has fought against the Italian art establishment for over 30 years.
3PP has been proud to present an "un-dramatised" account of the various press reports and official statements coming out of Florence, often including translations provided by art historian Dr. Edward Goldberg, a resident of the city for over 20 years. 3PP's complete Anghiari coverage, including key updates can be accessed here link
A crucial development has occurred in the case, which has been reported in the Italian press, but does not yet seem to have filtered into English language accounts, save for a very small update at Florence Daily News link
The following report was published in La Repubblica by Michele Bocci on Sepetember 14, 2012. The translation comes via email correspondence from Dr. Edward Goldberg in Florence. The original report in Italian in La Repubblica can be accessed online link
The “Mystery” of Leonardo Remains Unsolved
The search for the Battle of Anghiari is over. In the Salone dei 500, the holes are being filled in Vasari’s fresco. Soon, the scaffolding will be removed, the cost of which was about to pass to the City of Florence.by Michele Bocci
English translation by Dr. Edward Goldberg
The technicians of the Opificio delle pietre dure are filling in and restoring the 6 holes in the surface of Vasari’s Battle of Scannagallo in the Salone dei Cinquecento of Palazzo Vecchio. They will probably be finished by next week and will then begin to dismantle the massive scaffolding, which until now was paid for by National Geographic but would soon become the responsibility of the city of Florence. This is how it ends, with strokes of stucco and paint, the search for the Battle of Anghiari, Leonardo’s mythical work. Matteo Renzi described this as “the great mystery story of the Renaissance” and it was supposed to be solved by engineer Maurizio Seracini, professor at the University of San Diego, and his group. With endoscopic soundings, they were to have passed through the wall on which Vasari’s fresco is painted, discovering a second wall where, according to him, were traces of the brush strokes of the genius from Vinci. Cristina Acidini gave the go ahead to fill in the holes a few days ago, apparently after a meeting with Lorenzo Ornaghi, the Minister of Cultural Properties. The Opificio will need only a few days to conclude the work, seeing that the opportunity has lapsed for restoring the Vasari, as was hypothesized when Seracini’s group started their operation. A couple of estimates were in fact made, more than 100,000 euros for a full reordering , much less for a simpler intervention. The fresco will thus remain as it is now.
It was Matteo Renzi, back in July, who said in a highly polemical letter to Ornaghi that it no longer made sense to carry on. The mayor was attacking the minister, saying that it wasn’t enough to take further samples behind the six extant holes because they had already arrived at “an historic result, a mile stone” , discovering traces of paint that could go back to Leonardo. Rather, it was necessary to pass through other holes, in areas of the fresco restored in the nineteenth century. Last May, in effect, it was announced to the world in a crowded press conference right below the scaffolding that Seracini’s work had revealed important indications that led back to Leonardo. The problem, however, is that the samples taken by the professor and analyzed in his laboratory and in a private establishment were never sent to the Opificio and to the Soprintendenza for counter analysis , although this had been requested. In fact, the technicians of these two entities [the Opificio and the Soprintendenza] never even received a detailed report on what had been discovered. What they know is what they saw in the slides used for the presentation to the press. After the minister’s visit to Florence, the Soprintendenza proposed taking new samples from the six holes (plus a seventh) in order to confirm what had been stated by Seracini and to make further clarifications. In his July letter, Renzi explained that the work was already done and that his administration didn’t want to play “the delaying game”. Now, the Soprintendenza has given the go ahead to close up the holes. In the coming days, the worksite will be shut down and the City is in a hurry to do this because it doesn’t want to pay for the scaffolding.
The search for the Battle of Anghiari began in November of 2011. Polemics immediately broke out and an official of the Opificio, Cecilia Frosinini, disassociated herself from the intervention. The collection of signatures was begun by a group of experts and art historians from all the countries of the world who denounced the risk of damages to the Vasari, although the state magistrate in Florence found that damage had not in fact been done, and then there were general doubts that the Leonardo was actually to be found there. In March, after Seracini had concluded his initial work, it seemed that Palazzo Vecchio was the scene of one of the most important art historical discoveries of recent years. However, those who enter the Salone dei Cinquecento after the next few days will not be aware of any of this.
This development is perhaps sadly anticlimactic, but does not seem to be altogether surprising. The key items of information appear to be that Professor Seracini's quest was only made possible by ongoing sponsorship by National Geographic. A communication breakdown between Seracini's team and the official entity responsible for the site, the Opifico delle Pietre Dure (OPD) has stalled the investigation - which at this point seems irreconcilable, with National Geographic also having ceased their involvement. In an age where transparency of reporting, peer review and collaboration seem to be the golden standard for those engaged in any type of research, achieving this in reality always proves a lot more difficult.
3PP would like to thank Dr. Edward Goldberg for the prompt translation and ongoing insight into the tumult of Italian cultural affairs viewed from Florence.