SKETCHES hidden beneath one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous works have been revealed to the public for the first time after scientists discovered the provocative images under a thick layer of paint.
A bloody skirmish between knights, a clutch of figures rebuilding a ruined temple and even an elephant were carefully laid out by Leonardo in the preparatory “under-drawing” for his Adoration of the Magi.
In the version of the painting known to the world, in which much of the underdrawing is reproduced, these elements have been hidden.
Parts of the original design were deliberately obscured — sometimes with swipes of charcoal — because in 15th century Florence they were deemed unsuitable for a picture of the infant Jesus and the wise men.
In the brown painting that now hangs in the Uffizi gallery in Florence, the fighting knights on horseback have gone, as have the prone figures — presumably corpses — on the ground. All that can be seen is a pair of prancing horses.
The anonymous painter also covered up several figures who were rebuilding the ruins in the background. Signor Seracini suggests that the monks may have wanted the past to appear abandoned with the coming of Christ. “The main difference in the under-drawing is that it is much busier, there’s lots of movement. About half the human figures disappear in the painting phase,” he said.
Signor Seracini and the art historian Antonio Natali believe that Leonardo planned a battle scene and temple being rebuilt in the background to symbolise war and peace, drawing on the visions of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. The tiny elephant that Signor Seracini spotted might have been a symbol of exotic transport used by the Magi.
Link: The Adoration as was