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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Neutron Beams Search for Da Vinci's Lost Masterpiece


FLORENCE, Italy -- Art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini has waited 30 years to get to the bottom of his biggest mystery yet: whether Leonardo da Vinci's greatest lost fresco lies behind a wall in the Palazzo Vecchio here.

Seracini's team of 30 will scan the palazzo's 177-foot-long wall in mid-November, looking for the Battle of Anghiari, a work so magnificent it has been called the "school of the world." The $1.5 million search expedition will jump-start a multidisciplinary conservation program at the University of California at San Diego's Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology.

Since founding the art- and architectural-diagnostic center Editech in 1977, Seracini -- a fourth-generation Florentine -- has synced studies in engineering, art history and medicine to examine more than 2,000 buildings and artworks. He augments standard archival work with the use of ultrasound, X-rays, infrared, thermography and ultraviolet devices.

Editech's notable discoveries include the original positions of the Three Graces in Botticelli's Allegory of Spring and the hasty cover-up by a lesser hand of Leonardo's Adoration of the Magi, which earned Seracini a mention as the only real-life character in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

Wired News caught up with Seracini at his office. From behind a no-nonsense desk in a historic palazzo with high ceilings ribboned with frescoes, he talked about the relationship between technology and art.

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