Find may be new Da Vinci work

2009-10-18 16:42
This undated photo provided by Lumiere Technology in Paris shows the site of the fingerprint on a painting that art experts believe they have identified as a new Leonardo da Vinci.

This undated photo provided by Lumiere Technology in Paris shows the site of the fingerprint on a painting that art experts believe they have identified as a new Leonardo da Vinci.

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Toronto - A new portrait by Leonardo da Vinci may have been discovered thanks to a centuries-old fingerprint and palm print.

Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal-based forensic art expert, said that a fingerprint on what was presumed to be a 19th-century German drawing of a young woman has convinced art experts that it's actually a Leonardo.

Canadian-born art collector Peter Silverman bought "Profile of the Bella Principessa" at the Ganz gallery in New York on behalf of an anonymous Swiss collector in 2007 for about $19 000. New York art dealer Kate Ganz had owned it for about 11 years after buying it at auction for a similar price.

One London art dealer now says it could be worth more than $150m.

If experts are correct, it will be the first major work by Leonardo to be identified in 100 years.

Ganz doesn't believe it is.

"Nothing that I have seen or read in the past two years has changed my mind, I do not believe that this drawing is by Leonardo da Vinci," Ganz told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

She declined to comment further.

Biro said the print of an index or middle finger was found on the artwork and that it matched a fingerprint from Leonardo's "St Jerome" in the Vatican. Biro examined multispectral images of the drawing taken by the Lumiere Technology laboratory in Paris. The lab used a special digital scanner to show successive layers of the work.

"Leonardo used his hands liberally and frequently as part of his painting technique. His fingerprints are found on many of his works," Biro said. "I was able to make use of multispectral images to make a little smudge a very readable fingerprint."

Technical, stylistic and material composition evidence had experts believing they had found a Leonardo as early as last year. The discovery of the fingerprint now has them convinced.

"I would say it is priceless. There aren't that many Leonardos in existence," Biro said. He said he had heard that one London dealer felt it could be worth £100m.

'Icing on the cake'

Silverman said his Swiss friend saw it first and told him it didn't look like 19th century artwork. When Silverman took a look at the Ganz gallery in 2007, he thought it might be a Leonardo, although that seemed far-fetched. He hurriedly bought it for his Swiss friend and then started researching it.

"Of course you say, 'Come on, that's ridiculous. There's no such thing as a da Vinci floating around,"' Silverman said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I started looking in the areas around da Vinci and all the people who could have possibly done it and through elimination I came back to da Vinci."

Last year, Silverman bumped into Nicholas Turner, a former curator of drawings at the J Paul Getty Museum and the British Museum. Turner said it was a Leonardo and other leading art experts have backed it up as well.

Silverman said a palm print in the neck of the portrait's subject, believed to be the daughter of a 15th-century Milanese duke, adds to the evidence. Carbon dating also suggests the drawing dates from when Leonardo would have been drawing.

Silverman said the fingerprint image at the Luminere Technology laboratory confirmed it.

"That was icing on the cake," he said.

Silverman describes the Swiss private collector as a very rich man who has promised to buy him "lunch and dinner and caviar for the rest of my life if it ever does get sold."

- SAPA

Read more on:    leonardo da vinci  |  art  |  forensic investigation
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