Gamma Rays Could Soon Reveal a Lost Da Vinci Masterpiece—If Funding Comes Through

By Valerie Ross | September 9, 2011 2:15 pm

The Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy

What’s the News: The walls of the Palazzo Vecchio, the centuries-old seat of Florentine government, have doubtless housed many secrets over the years. Now, a physicist, a photographer, and a researcher who uses advanced technology to analyze art are teaming up to reveal one secret that may still linger there: a long-lost mural by Leonardo da Vinci, thought to be hidden behind a more recent fresco. The team plans to use specially designed cameras, based on nuclear physics, to peer behind the fresco and determine whether the da Vinci is actually there—and if so, to take a picture of it.

What’s the Context:

Part of Vasari’s “The Battle of Marciano”

How the Heck: 

The Future Holds:
  • Building bespoke, radiation-based cameras isn’t cheap, and despite securing substantial support, the team is still short on funds. They’re working to raise an additional $266,500 for the project.
  • If all goes well, the team is slotted to start their gamma camera hunt for the lost Leonardo next year.
Images courtesy of JoJan / Wikimedia Commons and Attilios / Wikipedia
  • Paul

    I suspect you meant to say it would bombard with neutrons, not neutrinos.

  • Valerie Ross

    Oops–thanks for the catch, Paul. I’ve fixed the text to say neutrons.

  • oldtaku

    I pledged $80 to this a couple weeks ago.

    An entertaining read is his #1 FAQ on ‘why don’t you just wedge a camera in there and look for it?’

  • Dave Yoder

    Thanks oldtaku for the pledge! And for the post. And thanks for changing it back to Neutrons–I had no idea what neutrinos are.

    dave yoder

  • Cathy

    Pledged $15 when I saw this yesterday. (I wish I could offer more, but I have limited “charity” funds and most of it is going to Red cross disasters these days, along with my platelets.) Hopefully they make it!

  • Kelsey

    This project is so exciting! I first heard about it in an interview with Yoder that was recently published in The Florentine (, and then I found a really interesting book about the painting from their publishing website. It’s called “Finding Leonardo: The Case for Recovering ‘The Battle of Anghiari'”. Here’s the link if anyone is interested:

    It would be incredible if this painting actually exists and is found. It’s amazing what technology can do. I can’t wait to see what happens with the project in the future.


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