The Battle of Anghiari is one of the world’s most controversial and mysterious masterpieces. Leonardo da Vinci began painting it on a wall in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio in 1503, leaving it unfinished.
We only have copies of the fresco. One of these is La Tavola Doria, an anonymous sketch dating to the sixteenth century and representing the central part of the original painting. It got its name from the noble family who bought it and kept until 1940. The sketch will be kept at the Uffizi Gallery for a period of three months, but the story that has brought it there is long and mysterious.
The finding of La Tavola Doria
Since for many years no one knew what had happened to it, it has not been easy to reconstruct a history of sales and theft.
The search for La Tavola Doria officially began 30 years ago. The painting was finally discovered in 2008 in the vault of a bank in Geneva on behalf of the Fuji Museum in Japan.
This draft, perhaps a sketch by Leonardo, is probably a fake. But when it comes to Leonardo, there is enough doubt to arouse interest, especially given that the subject is La Battaglia di Anghiari, the missing fresco that Leonardo painted on the east wall of the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio and never finished due to an accident during the realization.
The vicissitudes of the Doria panel began after 1940 when it passed through the hands of the noble Doria family of the Genoan Giovanni Marchese Nicolò De Ferrari. In the following centuries it passed through Switzerland, Germany, and America. The painting is now back where it was created five centuries ago, in Florence.
La Tavola Doria will be exhibited in the Uffizi until 29 July 2014. In accordance with an agreement with the Fuji Museum, at the end of the exhibition the painting will be brought to Japan, where it will remain for four years, before once again returning to Florence.
The copy of The Battle of Anghiari
The sketch depicts the central part of the famous fresco by Leonardo: a tangle of horses and warriors face each other during a clash between the Milanese and Florentine armies.
The Battle of Anghiari (Arezzo) was fought on June 29, 1440, between the troops of the Visconti of Milan and a coalition led by the Republic of Florence, including Venice and the Papal States.
Perhaps the fresco was still visible on the wall of Palazzo Vecchio up until 1557, when Cosimo I de’ Medici commissioned Giorgio Vasari to repaint the entire building. It is still unknown whether Vasari decided to cover the ruined painting with a new plaster or whether he found a way to save it. Reports from that period mention a fresco that was irretrievably damaged.
Leonardo had wanted to try the ancient technique of encaustic painting, but it was too large and the paint began to drip.
Da Vinci’s lost painting may be in Florence
Leonardo Da Vinci is now considered by most a mystery and an enigma. Historical truth, suggestion, or pure invention no longer seem divisible, especially after the release of Dan Brown’s novel Inferno. The Battle of Anghiari, never found, is always part of the myth.
An endoscopic observation has revealed that the east wall of the living room, where the painting of La Battaglia di Marciano by Vasari now stands, hides a cavity beyond which the original wall would have been situated.
The Anghiari of Leonardo might have been hidden there for over 500 years?
The subtitle above is the belief of Maurizio Seracini, and in 2012, he therefore slipped tiny cameras through small holes in the Vasari painting. For many historians, however, nothing lay behind the Battle of Marciano.
There are even opposing positions regarding the message CERCA TROVA on the flags of the painting by Vasari: for Seracini, this is unequivocal evidence of the presence of Leonardo; for others art historians, this is really just a sarcastic message directed to the people of Siena, who looked for freedom and instead found defeat.
The entire operation, which was funded and sponsored by National Geographic, was carried on for weeks by Professor Saracini; it remains to be seen whether Seracini’s intuition was correct: the search began under a great deal of controversy and was stopped after the Superintendency banned the method of continuing to “rip” Vasari.
The Tavola Doria, a genuine painting or a fake?
One of few traces of the Battle of Anghiari is the Tavola Doria on display at the Uffizi Gallery in a room of usually closed to the public. Along with the Doria are other copies of famous works by Leonardo.
Even if the Doria is a false, it remains a testament to how the original was to appear after 1503. Anyway, the mere echo of Leonardo’s name evokes, perhaps, more than the truth.
Pictures by Polomuseale.firenze.it