Alleged discoveries of new works involving famous Old Masters undergoe a process of filtration. Each year a slew of claims comes forth-many are dismissed without being considered, some are reported in the press and debated by experts, and a select few are actually proven to be authentic.These are matters that are taken with a grain of salt.
Imagine the sweetness then of recent weeks, when not one, but two announcements of works related to the Renaissance godfather Leonardo, occurred in a little over a month.
The first surprise came unconventionally enough, when a reporter-not an art historian, proclaimed that a hidden portrait of a youthful Leonardo had been discovered underneath the text of one of his most well-known writings. Piero Angela, reporting for the RAI news network in Italy, produced evidence of Leonardo’s face being written over on the 10th page of the Codex on the Flight of Birds, apparently reused for the manuscript after it was first drawn on in the 1480s. Carlo Pedretti, the consensus heavyweight on Leonardo, described the drawing as “one of the most important acquisitions in the study of Leonardo, in the study of his image, and in the study of his thought too”.
Amazingly enough, news of another separate discovery surfaced in early April. Art historian Nicola Barbatelli had recently stumbled upon a possible self-portrait of Leonardo, which had been initially mistaken as a portrait of Galileo Galilei. Barbatelli was tipped off by an inscription located on the back of the small work (24×18 inches), which read ‘Pinxit Mea’- da Vinci’s trademark. While carbon tests have dated the wooden frame of the painting to Leonardo’s time, further research will be needed to further confirm its identity. The painting has been in a private family collection in Acerenza, located in Italy’s southern Basilicata area, but its newfound fame will have it traveling on exhibition, in the southern Italian town of Vaglio.