Scholars debate 'secret code' on newly discovered Da Vinci painting
"This isn't Dan Brown" concealed signature on what is claimed to be the earliest known work by Leonardo da Vinci stirs debate
Scholars said infrared analysis had revealed a tiny signature on the jawline of the angel's face which, when magnified, reads "Da Vinci Lionardo" with a date, 1471.
If verified, it would be the earliest surviving work by the Renaissance genius, as well as his earliest known signature. He would have been 18 when he painted the portrait which appears on a majolica glazed tile - a popular art form in Europe in the 15th century.
The signature went unnoticed for five centuries because it is all but invisible to the naked eye, researchers claim. They said it would probably have been legible when the portrait was first painted, but became smudged in the firing process when the clay tile was baked in a furnace. The researchers also discovered the initials "LDV" for Leonardo da Vinci in the margin of the portrait.
A lab in Milan analysed the clay used to make the glazed tile with a technique known as thermo-luminescence and dated it to the second half of the 15th century.
"We have done everything humanly possible to verify its provenance. Science has provided us with concrete evidence that this work is by Leonardo da Vinci," said art historian Professor Ernesto Solari. "This provides an insight into the artist as a very young man."
The signature and date are so small - to the naked eye, just a black line along the lower jaw of the Archangel Gabriel - that they appear to have been deliberately concealed. "Is it a secret code? I wouldn't say that, this isn't Dan Brown," said Prof Solari. (© Daily Telegraph, London)