'The Battle of Anghiari,' Missing Da Vinci Painting, Stirs Controversy (VIDEO)

12/06/2011 05:20 pm ET | Updated Dec 06, 2011

The hunt for a missing Leonardo Da Vinci painting is fueling controversy in the art world.

The Guardian reports that the conflict revolves around a 16th Century fresco painting -- Giorgio Vasari's "The Battle of Marciano" -- on a wall in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio.

Researcher Maurizio Seracini, who is mentioned in Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," is convinced that behind the fresco lies Da Vinci's unfinished, "The Battle of Anghiari," a painting which the Guardian says is "considered by some his finest work."

The paper explains how Seracini reached this conclusion:

[Seracini] inserted tiny cameras through drilled holes in the visible wall a week ago, and found a 2cm cavity. On the back wall beyond the cavity, traces of an organic pigment were found, convincing some that the Da Vinci masterpiece exists.

In fact, art restoration expert Cecilia Frosinone went so far as to resign from working with Seracini, citing "ethical" reasons. She and art historian Tomaso Montanari then started a petition demanding the drilling be stopped because it was damaging Vasari's work. The petition now has 150 signatures from scholars from around the world.

"Vasari knew how to remove works by other people while keeping them intact," Montanari told the Guardian. "What sense would there have been sealing up the Da Vinci, unless you get into childish Dan Brown logic?"

But Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi is standing behind the project, saying the holes were only being drilled in parts of the painting that were already damaged, according to the BBC. He also said Vasari's work would later be restored.

Apparently, Renzi is so excited by the project that, upon leaving one evening, he once told workers, "If you find something, call me and I’ll come in my pajamas."

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