National Geographic Channel Presents "Finding The Lost Da Vinci"

Tonight on National Geographic Channel, it’s the fascinating program, “Finding The Lost DaVinci.” I saw a preview of this on Friday. This deals with the possible find of a lost Leonardo Da Vinci mural, thought to have been missing for 500 years, “The Battle of Anghiari.”

One man has spent over 35 years looking for this lost treasure and going over clues, he’s believed to have found the mural in Florence, Italy. It’s an amazing discovery if this is indeed true and would unlock one of the greatest pieces of art history.

The program premieres tonight at 9 Eastern and Pacific. We have the press release and a video preview below.


Florence, Italy: Dr. Maurizio Seracini threads an endoscope into the 500 year old wall to look for the lost Leonardo da Vinci. (Photo Credit: David Yoder)

Real-life da Vinci Code Mystery Follows Passionate Scientist and his Dedicated Team as they Attempt to Unravel One of the Art World’s Greatest Mysteries – Finding A Mural Lost for More Than 500 Years
Finding The Lost da Vinci Premieres Sunday, March 18, at 9 p.m. ET/PT

(Washington, D.C. – February 28, 2012) It’s one of the greatest mysteries of the art world: Leonardo da Vinci’s The Battle of Anghiari. It is an epic tangle of horses and men. The battle is captured at a critical moment, the action at its peak – muscles taut, eyes wild, weapons seconds from smashing down. And then, 500 years ago, the masterpiece vanishes, with only copies rendered by other artists left behind to confirm its existence. Solving the mystery of this “Lost Leonardo” is the ultimate detective story.

Scientist and art enthusiast Maurizio Seracini, Director of the University of California San Diego’s Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology, has dedicated 36 years to tracking down the missing mural, and seems to be on the verge of uncovering the hidden fresco behind the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. Finding the Lost da Vinci, premiering Sunday, March 18, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on National Geographic Channel, has exclusive behind-the-scenes access to pivotal moments in Seracini’s quest to find this priceless work of art, tracking the frenzied search as experts race against time to find the treasure – and work alongside Florentine leaders and art conservators. Following Seracini’s every move is photographer Dave Yoder, covering this project on assignment for National Geographic.

“This story, it’s got mystery, it’s got art, it’s got eccentric characters.  The thought that there could be a lost Leonardo behind one of these huge murals in this vast room is a once in a lifetime kind of story,” said Yoder.

In the public eye for a scant half-century, admirers who scarcely noticed the Mona Lisa waxed poetic about The Battle of Anghiari, and came to Florence to copy it. But less than 60 years later, another Renaissance master, Giorgio Vasari, was brought in to remodel the hall where the painting was allegedly started…and replace the Leonardo. Legend has it that he simply entombed Leonardo’s original painting within the wall. Problem is – no one knows exactly where that was or if it actually happened.

Seracini is convinced he has cracked the case. Armed with thermal scans, LiDAR imaging, architectural diagrams, and years of accumulated research, Seracini is spearheading a new effort, supported by the National Geographic Society and UC San Diego’s Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology, in cooperation with the City of Florence, to pinpoint the lost masterpiece – and staking his reputation on the theory that Leonardo’s lost mural is hidden behind the walls of Vasari’s fresco.

“Throughout my professional life, my belief that it’s there has never changed,” proclaims Seracini. “There is no intrinsic logic in anyone saying there is nothing left.”

His passion and determination is driven by what Seracini thinks is the ultimate clue – a “tell” in Vasari’s fresco – the words “cerca trova” or “search and you will find” high above the hall on a battle flag. He scans the hall with thermal imaging, lasers and radar and discovers a hidden air gap, where he believes the Leonardo is hidden. But the only way to explore that theory is by drilling small holes through the fragile Vasari mural and inserting an endoscopic probe to look.

Intrigued by the research, Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi gives the green light for restorers to drill several tiny holes through the fragile fresco. It comes with a catch – finish the work in just over a week under close supervision by officials. Anxious museum officials hover, and the Italian press intensely scrutinizes the project.

With the clock ticking, museum restorers inspect Seracini’s plan and tell him the drilling will damage Vasari’s fresco. They delay the project and then tell him they will drill only in cracked or previously restored areas where it won’t damage the original Vasari mural. Meanwhile, the media onslaught grows. From one day to the next, the battle of wills plays out in the Italian press. Drill, don’t drill, where, when?

In the rush to prove the case, photographer Yoder travels to Oxford, where an art historian gives him a rare look at a mockup of Leonardo’s drawings as he prepared for the mural. Then Yoder searches through the dusty archives dating to the time of Leonardo and finds a ledger of materials he bought to paint the mural. Yoder’s efforts confirm the dimensions of the figures and what chemicals to look for behind the walls.

Then another stunner: a mysterious German professor tells Yoder that the most famous copy of The Battle of Anghiari, with vital clues of its depiction, is in the hands of the Japanese mafia, although he does not know where exactly it is located.

Two days after the project is set to commence, everything is still locked at a standstill. But finally, the permission is given, and the team is deployed, with only five days left. A restorer carefully works away a piece of paint and plaster – a previous restoration patch that does no damage to anything by Vasari. And with the whining crescendo of the drill, the investigation is underway. Five days. Six holes. It is literally looking for a needle in a haystack. And as time runs out, the restorers drill in the last place. Hidden from the scrutiny of the media, Seracini thinks he has found what could be paint.  But, samples will need to be sent to a lab for testing, and the scaffolding will have to come down.

Have they finally found proof to solve the mystery of the Lost Leonardo? Will the world at last see the powerful Battle of Anghiari or is it still lost forever?

Finding the Lost da Vinci is produced for National Geographic Channel (NGC) by National Geographic Television (NGT). For NGT, producer/director is Max Salomon and executive producer is Robert Zakin. For NGC, executive producer is Allan Butler and executive vice president of programming is Michael Cascio.

Here’s a video preview of tonight’s documentary.

Video “The Real Life Da Vinci Code” – The story of the hunt for a priceless masterpiece that could lead to one of the greatest discoveries the art world has ever known.

“Finding The Lost DaVinci” premieres tonight at 9 East/West on National Geographic Channel.

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.