The Mysterious Origin of Maya Blue?

Around 800 AD, the ancient Mayas started to use a strange blue pigment in their artwork. What was Maya Blue?

The Mysterious Origin of Maya Blue?

Maya Blue was a unique, weather resistant, blue pigment used by ancient pre-Columbian cultures such as the Maya. For many years, we’ve known Maya Blue consisted of indigo and a magnesium aluminum phyllosilicate known as palygorskite. But like Phoenicia’s famous Tyrian Purple, the sources of those materials have long remained a mystery…until now.

Recent research has identified at least two sources of the palygorskite. They originated from mines located in the northern half of the Yucatán Peninsula. Here’s more on the origin of Maya Blue from Archaeology News Network:

For some time, scientists have known that Maya Blue is formed through the chemical combination of indigo and the clay mineral palygorskite. Only now, however, have researchers established a link between contemporary indigenous knowledge and ancient sources of the mineral.

In a paper published online in the Journal of Archaeological Science on March 16, 2012, researchers from Wheaton College, The Field Museum of Natural History, the United States Geological Survey, California State University of Long Beach, and the Smithsonian Institution, demonstrated that the palygorskite component in some of the Maya Blue samples came from mines in two locations in Mexico’s northern Yucatan Peninsula…

(See Archaeology News Network for more on Maya Blue)

Da Vinci’s Lost Masterpiece?

On June 6, 1505, Leonardo da Vinci began to paint The Battle of Anghiari in the Palazzo Vecchio. Over fifty years later, Giorgio Vasari was hired to remodel the room where da Vinci’s mural was located. In the process, da Vinci’s mural vanished into thin air. New evidence suggests that not only does it still exist but that it is in the exact same place where it was painted all those years ago!

Battle of the Anghiari – The Lost Leonardo?

The Battle of Anghiari is often referred to as “The Lost Leonardo.” At the time of its creation, it was considered his finest work. Today it’s remembered via a few sketches done by da Vinci as well as a Peter Paul Rubens drawing which was apparently inspired by a copy of the original work (Ruben’s drawing is pictured above).

For many centuries, this work was feared lost. However, it turns out Vasari had a penchant for secretly preserving artwork. Back in 1861, workers removed a wall from Santa Maria Novella. The wall had been adorned with Vasari’s Madonna of the Rosary. Behind it, they discovered a 1428 piece by Masaccio entitled Trinità. Rather than destroy Masaccio’s fresco, Vasari had covered it up with a false wall and in the process, saved it for future generations.

Did Giorgio Vasari save The Battle of Anghiari?

Art diagnostic expert Maurizio Seracini believes Vasari used similar techniques to save The Battle of Anghiari. In 2005, he used sophisticated radar equipment to discover “a narrow cavity behind the Vasari fresco Battle of Marciano.” In true Da Vinci Code fashion, he also found an inscription from Vasari on the Battle of Marciano. It reads “Cerca, trova.” Or, “Seek and you shall find.”

Yesterday, Seracini’s team reported that they have uncovered chemical evidence of da Vinci’s lost work. Here’s some details on the search for the lost Battle of Anghiari from Live Science:

  • “One of the samples contained a black material with a chemical composition similar to black pigment found in brown glazes on da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and “St. John the Baptist,” identified in a recently published scientific paper by the Louvre, which analyzed all the da Vinci paintings in its collection.
  • Flakes of red material found seem to be made up of organic material that may be associated with red lake (lacquer) — something unlikely to exist in an ordinary plastered wall.
  • From the high-definition images captured by the probe, the researchers saw a beige material on the original wall, which, they say, could only have been applied by a paintbrush.
  • The researchers confirmed an air gap between the brick wall holding Vasari’s mural and the wall behind it, something that had been identified in previous research using radar scans. The researchers speculate Vasari may have built a wall in front of da Vinci’s masterpiece in order to preserve it.”

Even if Vasari did store the mural behind a false wall, experts believe it could be in extremely poor shape. Still, we continue to believe the search is worthwhile. For if Seracini is right, then what may have been da Vinci’s greatest masterpiece will get a second opportunity to see the light of day…and to dazzle the world.

Mysteries of the Mona Lisa?

The Mona Lisa is Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous painting. Yet, it remains cloaked in secrecy to this day. Who was she? Is it even the original painting? Why was it painted? And how did da Vinci create that strange smile of hers?

Mysteries of the Mona Lisa?

Many of those mysteries aren’t going away anytime soon. However, a recent discovery might shed some new light on them. Researchers have discovered a copy of the Mona Lisa which was painted in da Vinci’s studio at about the same time as the original. Here’s more on the Mona Lisa from Wired:

A copy of the Mona Lisa that was painted in Leonardo’s studio has been discovered in Spain’s national art museum, the Prado. The discovery could change our understanding of the famous painting…

Philippa Warr, Wired contributor and editor of Art’s In The Right Place, said in an email: “The scientific processes applied to the Prado work suggest that both the Leonardo original and the Prado version were painted in tandem, with the Prado version recording the evolution of the famous work through changes in the underdrawings. The discovery of the exact nature of the Prado work could be key in answering (or at least narrowing down) some of the mysteries which surround Leonardo’s Mona Lisa.”

(See more on the Mona Lisa at Wired)

Lost Da Vinci Masterpiece Discovered?

On June 6, 1505, Leonardo da Vinci began to paint the Battle of Anghiari in the Palazzo Vecchio. The 12 by 15 foot mural depicted a Florentine victory over the Milanese. According to the famous Italian painter Giorgio Vasari, da Vinci never finished the project. New evidence suggests that not only was the painting completed but that it was covered up by none other than Vasari himself!

The Lost Leonardo da Vinci?

The Battle of Anghiari is often referred to as “The Lost Leonardo.” At the time of its creation, it was considered his finest work. Today it’s remembered via a few sketches done by da Vinci as well as a Peter Paul Rubens drawing which was apparently inspired by a copy of the original work (Ruben’s drawing is pictured above).

Over fifty years after da Vinci stopped working on the Battle of Anghiari, Vasari was hired to remodel the room where it was located. In the process, the mural vanished. Later art historians believed that Da Vinci’s painting was gone forever.

Did Giorgio Vasari save The Battle of Anghiari?

But in 1861, workers removed a wall from Santa Maria Novella. The wall had been adorned with Vasari’s Madonna of the Rosary. Behind it, they discovered a 1428 piece by Masaccio entitled Trinità. Rather than destroy Masaccio’s fresco, Vasari had covered it up with a false wall and in the process, saved it for future generations. In 2000, Carlo Pedretti “proposed that Vasari saved Leonardo’s masterpiece just as he had Masaccio’s.”

Art diagnostic expert Maurizio Seracini took the suggestion to heart. In 2005, he used  sophisticated radar equipment to discover “a narrow cavity behind the Vasari fresco Battle of Marciano.” In true Da Vinci Code fashion, he also found an inscription from Vasari on the Battle of Marciano. It reads “Cerca, trova.” Or, “Seek and you shall find.”

Seracini hopes to locate the work by using a “special copper-crystal mosaic gamma ray diffraction lens.” The camera would fire neutrons through the existing wall. If da Vinci’s painting is behind it, then the metals in the paint will emit gamma rays allowing Seracini to map the strokes. An ambitious fund-raising effort is underway to pay for the camera. But with just 32 days to go, it’s short by $244,000. If you’re interested in donating to the cause, visit here.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

It remains uncertain whether or not the painting was actually hidden away in the first place. And even if Vasari did store it behind a false wall, experts believe that it could be  in extremely poor shape. Still, the search is worthwhile. For if Seracini is right, then what may have been da Vinci’s greatest masterpiece will get a second opportunity to see the light of day…and to dazzle the world.