Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘earliest painting discovered’ after 600 years
It would be strange if another painting of Leonardo da Vinci
wouldn’t have resurfaced again. Italian art experts believe they have found the earliest work created by genius Leonardo. Painted onto a square tile,
the image of the Archangel Gabriel is dated 1471 and signed "Da Vinci Lionardo."
At a press conference in Rome, two scholars—art historian Ernesto Solari and handwriting expert Ivana Rosa Bonfantino— claimed that the 15th-century tile painting of the archangel Gabriel is the earliest known work by the master.
Once they were alerted to the discovery, Solari and Bonfantino spent three years researching the tile and subjecting it to scientific tests. According to Nick Squires of the Telegraph, infrared analysis of the relic revealed that an apparent date, 1471, had been written next to the signature. Thermoluminescence dating of the tile confirmed that it was, in fact, created in the 15th century.
It is a 20×20 cm square ceramic tile on which the artist painted an image of the Archangel Gabriel, most likely fired by Leonardo in his grandfather’s kiln in Bacchereto (Tuscany). The tile is a type of glazed earthenware known as "majolica," a popular style of pottery in 15th-century Italy.
The image shows the profile of a young man with thick curls, a golden aura framing his head, and peacock-like feathered wings. Even if this is clearly the image of an archangel, Solari explains this could also be the first self-portrait of the Renaissance genius.
The painting is owned by an aristocratic family, from the Italian town of Ravello, who were gifted it by the Duchess of Amalfi in 1499.
Left: Portrait of the Archangel Gabriel, perhaps by Leonardo da Vinci, according to Italian scholars
Ernesto Solari claims that his research with Ivana Bonfantin, proves that the tile bears clues leading to the polymath. There are secret inscriptions including a sequence of numbers, and Leonardo’s signature back to front — his later notebooks are full of his mirror-writing — together making up a coded message translated as: "I, Leonardo da Vinci, born in 1452, represented myself as the Archangel Gabriel in 1471."
Using infrared analysis, experts claim to have found this signature on the angel’s jawline
Professor Ernesto Solari said: "The protocol of the time was not to sign majolicas like this. "Perhaps that is why it is so small… Any larger and it would have spoilt the aesthetic of the painting." Solari said they also found the initials LDV inscribed on the border. "This provides an insight into the artist as a very young man."
But one leading da Vinci expert is raising doubts about the painting’s authenticity. Martin Kemp, emeritus professor of art history at Oxford University, who thought the "vermicelli like" hair particularly unconvincing, told the Guardian: "The chance of its being by Leonardo is less than zero. The silly season for Leonardo never closes." He also added the angel’s hair compared "poorly" to the artist’s earliest known work, The Annunciation painted in 1472 or 1473.
Very few genuine works by Leonardo survive, and almost all are in museum collections, partly because his academic and scientific interests were so wide, including inventions such as flying machines and siege engines: he left a trail of unfinished projects throughout his career.
Left: Self portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. It is thought that this self-portrait was drawn by the artist at about the age of 60. The portrait has become an iconic representation of Leonardo as a polymath or "Renaissance Man", despite this, some historians and scholars, including Kemp, disagree as to the true identity of the sitter.
Leonardo da Vinci. the Tuscan , 1473. 28.5×19 cm
This drawing from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence is officially considered the earliest work of Leonardo da Vinci, which has survived to this day. The picture is dated by 1473.
Over the past 10 years, various experts have repeatedly announced the discovery of previously unknown works of Da Vinci. So, in 2016, a French doctor brought a drawing of Saint Sebastian to the Paris auction house Tajan, considering that it had to be a lost work by Leonardo da Vinci. The auctioneer has the backing of Carmen C Bambach of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, one of the world’s most astute curators of Leonardo, in making this sensational claim.
Below: The drawing, depicting the torments of St. Sebastian, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and valued at about $ 16 million. Photo: Tajan
Like many works purportedly by Leonardo—including the most expensive painting in the world, Salvator Mundi
—the tile painting is sure to be the subject of academic debate for some time to come.
In any case, the small tile will be exhibited until September 30, 2018, at the Leonardo da Vinci Experience Museum, located in the Via della Conciliazione, the main Roman street leading to the Vatican.
Based on materials from The Guardian