Da Vinci Restoration Project Reignites Conspiracy Theories

Leonardo Da Vinci, The Adoration of the Magi (1481).
Leonardo Da Vinci, The Adoration of the Magi (1481).

Restorations to an unfinished painting by Renaissance master Leonardo Da Vinci are well underway, and may confirm some Dan Brown-level conspiracy theories. As reported by the Art Newspaper, the large wood panel painting, The Adoration of the Magi, belongs to Florence’s Uffizi Galleries, but is currently being worked on at Florence’s conservation institute, the Opificio delle Pietre Dure.

Da Vinci began work on The Adoration of the Magi when he was just 29, in 1481, as a commission from the Florentine monastery of San Donato in Scopeto. The next year, he moved to Milan, leaving the work behind, unfinished. In 1496, the monks got Filippino Lippi to take on the job, completing a painting that is now also part of the Uffizi collection.

Since at least 2002, art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini, who appeared in the pages of The Da Vinci Code, has been convinced that the painting we know today, which bears minimal resemblance to the traditional Nativity scene, was by someone other than Da Vinci. His discovery of dramatically different preliminary drawings underneath the painting’s surface has been widely reported by the media, including the New York Times, the Guardian, and Discovery News.

To date, The Adoration of the Magi has undergone a year’s worth of conservation. Over the course of the next year, the wood panel beneath the painting will be carefully restored. Altogether, the process is expected to cost €170,000 ($218,000), paid for with a grant from Friends of the Uffizi Gallery.

“The cleaning process has revealed aspects of the painting that were previously only visible under infrared light and which give the painting a richer theological dimension,” Antonio Natali, the Uffizi’s director, said in a statement. According to the Associated Press, conservators’ findings prove that other artists had a hand in the piece, which seems to support Seracini’s allegations.

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