Unrecognised Leonardo da Vinci portrait revealed by his fingerprint

Ben Hoyle The Times 13.10.2009 19:39
Unrecognised Leonardo da Vinci portrait revealed by his fingerprint - Leonardo da Vinci - art


The ghost of a fingerprint in the top left corner of an obscure portrait appears to have confirmed one of the most extraordinary art discoveries.



The 33 x 23cm (13 x 9in) picture, in chalk, pen and ink, appeared at auction at Christie’s, New York, in 1998, catalogued as “German school, early 19th century”. It sold for $19,000 (£11,400). Now a growing number of leading art experts agree that it is almost certainly by Leonardo da Vinci and worth about £100 million.

Carbon dating and infra-red analysis of the artist’s technique are consistent with such a conclusion, but the most compelling evidence is that fragment of a fingerprint.

Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal-based forensic art expert, found it while examining images captured by the revolutionary multispectral camera from the Lumière Technology company, Antiques Trade Gazette reports today.

Mr Biro has pioneered the use of fingerprint technology to help to resolve art authentication disputes. Multispectral analysis reveals each layer of colour, and enables the pigment mixtures of each pixel to be identified without taking physical samples. The fingerprint corresponds to the tip of the index or middle finger, and is “highly comparable” to one on Leonardo’s St Jerome in the Vatican. Importantly, St Jerome is an early work from a time when Leonardo was not known to have employed assistants, making it likely that it is his fingerprint.


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