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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Thu-Huong Ha

  • In 1975, I met in Florence a professor, Carlo Pedretti,

  • my former professor of art history, and today

  • a world-renowned scholar of Leonardo da Vinci.

  • Well, he asked me if I could find some technological way

  • to unfold a five-centuries-old mystery related to

  • a lost masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci,

  • the "Battle of Anghiari," which is supposed to be located

  • in the Hall of the 500 in Palazzo Vecchio, in Florence.

  • Well, in the mid-'70s, there were not great opportunities

  • for a bioengineer like me, especially in Italy, and so

  • I decided, with some researchers from the United States

  • and the University of Florence, to start probing the murals

  • decorated by Vasari on the long walls of the Hall of the 500

  • searching for the lost Leonardo.

  • Unfortunately, at that time we did not know that

  • that was not exactly where we should be looking,

  • because we had to go much deeper in, and so the research

  • came to a halt, and it was only taken up in 2000

  • thanks to the interest and the enthusiasm of the Guinness family.

  • Well, this time, we focused on trying to reconstruct

  • the way the Hall of the 500 was before the remodeling,

  • and the so-called Sala Grande, which was built in 1494,

  • and to find out the original doors, windows,

  • and in order to do that, we first created a 3D model,

  • and then, with thermography, we went on to discover

  • hidden windows. These are the original windows of the hall

  • of the Sala Grande. We also found out about the height

  • of the ceiling, and we managed to reconstruct, therefore,

  • all the layout of this original hall

  • the way it was before there came Vasari,

  • and restructured the whole thing,

  • including a staircase that was very important

  • in order to precisely place "The Battle of Anghiari"

  • on a specific area of one of the two walls.

  • Well, we also learned that Vasari, who was commissioned

  • to remodel the Hall of the 500 between 1560 and 1574

  • by the Grand Duke Cosimo I of the Medici family,

  • we have at least two instances when he saved masterpieces

  • specifically by placing a brick wall in front of it

  • and leaving a small air gap.

  • One that we [see] here, Masaccio, the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence,

  • so we just said, well maybe, Visari has done something

  • like that in the case of this great work of art by Leonardo,

  • since he was a great admirer of Leonardo da Vinci.

  • And so we built some very sophisticated radio antennas

  • just for probing both walls and searching for an air gap.

  • And we did find many on the right panel of the east wall,

  • an air gap, and that's where

  • we believe "The Battle of Anghiari,"

  • or at least the part that we know has been painted,

  • which is called "The Fight for the Standard," should be located.

  • Well, from there, unfortunately,

  • in 2004, the project

  • came to a halt. Many political reasons.

  • So I decided to go back to my alma mater,

  • and, at the University of California, San Diego,

  • and I proposed to open up a research center

  • for engineering sciences for cultural heritage.

  • And in 2007, we created CISA3 as a research center

  • for cultural heritage, specifically art, architecture

  • and archaeology. So students started to flow in,

  • and we started to build technologies, because that's

  • basically what we also needed in order to move forward

  • and go and do fieldwork.

  • We came back in the Hall of the 500 in 2011,

  • and this time, with a great group of students,

  • and my colleague, Professor Falko Kuester,

  • who is now the director at CISA3, and we

  • came back just since we knew already where to look for

  • to find out if there was still something left.

  • Well, we were confined though, limited, I should rather say,

  • for several reasons that it's not worth explaining,

  • to endoscopy only, of the many other options we had,

  • and with a 4mm camera attached to it,

  • we were successful in documenting and taking

  • some fragments of what it turns out to be

  • a reddish color, black color, and there is some

  • beige fragments that later on

  • we ran a much more sophisticated exams,

  • XRF, X-ray diffraction, and the results are very positive

  • so far. It seems to indicate that indeed

  • we have found some pigments, and since we know for sure

  • that no other artist has painted on that wall

  • before Vasari came in about 60 years later, well,

  • those pigments are therefore firmly related to mural painting

  • and most likely to Leonardo.

  • Well, we are searching for the highest and highly praised

  • work of art ever achieved by mankind.

  • As a matter of fact, this is by far the most important

  • commission that Leonardo has ever had,

  • and for doing this great masterpiece, he was named

  • the number one artist influence at the time.

  • I had also had the privilege since the last 37 years

  • to work on several masterpieces as you can see behind me,

  • but basically to do what? Well, to assess, for example,

  • the state of conservation. See here the face of the

  • Madonna of the Chair that when just shining a UV light on it

  • you suddenly see another, different lady,

  • aged lady, I should rather say.

  • There is a lot of varnish still sitting there, several retouches,

  • and some over cleaning. It becomes very visible.

  • But also, technology has helped to write new pages

  • of our history, or at least to update pages of our histories.

  • For example, the "Lady with the Unicorn,"

  • another painting by Rafael, well, you see the unicorn.

  • A lot has been said and written about the unicorn, but

  • if you take an X-ray of the unicorn, it becomes a puppy dog.

  • And — (Laughter) — no problem, but, unfortunately,

  • continuing with the scientific examination of this painting

  • came out that Rafael did not paint the unicorn,

  • did not paint the puppy dog, actually left the painting

  • unfinished, so all this writing about the exotic symbol

  • of the unicorn — (Laughter) — unfortunately,

  • is not very reliable. (Laughter)

  • Well, also, authenticity. Just think for a moment

  • if science really could move in the field of authenticity

  • of works of art. There would be a cultural revolution

  • to say the least, but also, I would say, a market revolution,

  • let me add. Take this example:

  • Otto Marseus, nice painting, which is "Still Life"

  • at the Pitti Gallery, and just have an infrared camera peering through,

  • and luckily for art historians, it just was confirmed

  • that there is a signature of Otto Marseus. It even says

  • when it was made and also the location.

  • So that was a good result. Sometimes, it's not that good,

  • and so, again, authenticity and science could go together

  • and change the way, not attributions being made,

  • but at least lay the ground for a more objective,

  • or, I should rather say, less subjective attribution,

  • as it is done today.

  • But I would say the discovery that really caught

  • my imagination, my admiration, is the incredibly vivid

  • drawing under this layer, brown layer,

  • of "The Adoration of the Magi." Here you see

  • a handmade setting XYZ scanner with an infrared camera put on it,

  • and just peering through this brown layer

  • of this masterpiece to reveal

  • what could have been underneath.

  • Well, this happens to be the most important painting

  • we have in Italy by Leonardo da Vinci, and

  • look at the wonderful images of faces that nobody has seen

  • for five centuries. Look at these portraits.

  • They're magnificent. You see Leonardo at work.

  • You see the geniality of his creation, right directly

  • on the ground layer of the panel, and see

  • this cool thing, finding, I should rather say,

  • an elephant. (Laughter) Because of this elephant,

  • over 70 new images came out, never seen for centuries.

  • This was an epiphany. We came to understand

  • and to prove that the brown coating that we see today

  • was not done by Leonardo da Vinci, which left us

  • only the other drawing that for five centuries

  • we were not able to see, so thanks only to technology.

  • Well, the tablet. Well, we thought, well, if we all have

  • this pleasure, this privilege to see all this,

  • to find all these discoveries, what about for everybody else?

  • So we thought of an augmented reality application

  • using a tablet. Let me show you just simulating

  • what we could be doing, any of us could be doing,

  • in a museum environment.

  • So let's say that we go to a museum with a tablet, okay?

  • And we just aim the camera of the tablet

  • to the painting that we are interested to see, like this.

  • Okay? And I will just click on it, we pause,

  • and now let me turn to you so the moment the image,

  • or, I should say, the camera, has locked in the painting,

  • then the images you just saw up there in the drawing

  • are being loaded. And so, see.

  • We can, as we said, we can zoom in. Then we can scroll.

  • Okay? Let's go and find the elephant.

  • So all we need is one finger. Just wipe off

  • and we see the elephant. (Applause)

  • (Applause)

  • Okay? And then if we want,

  • we can continue the scroll to find out, for example,

  • on the staircase, the whole iconography is going

  • to be changed. There are a lot of laymen reconstructing

  • from the ruins of an old temple a new temple,

  • and there are a lot of figures showing up. See?

  • This is not just a curiosity, because it changes

  • not just the iconography as you see it, but the iconology,

  • the meaning of the painting,

  • and we believe this is a cool way, easy way,

  • that everybody could have access to, to become more

  • the protagonist of your own discovery, and not just

  • be so passive about it, as we are when we walk through

  • endless rooms of museums.

  • (Applause)

  • Another concept is the digital clinical chart, which sounds

  • very obvious if we were to talk about real patients,

  • but when we talk about works of art, unfortunately,

  • it's never been tapped as an idea.

  • Well, we believe, again, that this should be the beginning,

  • the very first step, to do real conservation,

  • and allowing us to really explore and to understand

  • everything related to the state of our conservation,

  • the technique, materials, and also if, when, and why

  • we should restore, or, rather, to intervene on

  • the environment surrounding the painting.

  • Well, our vision is to rediscover

  • the spirit of the Renaissance, create a new discipline

  • where engineering for cultural heritage is actually

  • a symbol of blending art and science together.

  • We definitely need a new breed of engineers

  • that will go out and do this kind of work and

  • rediscover for us these values, these cultural values

  • that we badly need, especially today.

  • And if you want to summarize in one just single word,

  • well, this is what we're trying to do.

  • We're trying to give a future to our past

  • in order to have a future.

  • As long as we live a life of curiosity and passion,

  • there is a bit of Leonardo in all of us. Thank you. (Applause)

  • (Applause)

Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Thu-Huong Ha

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