London, March 5 : The mystery attached to Leonardo Da Vinci's lost masterpiece, the Battle of Anghiari, is close to being cracked, a leading art historian hs claimed.
Professor Maurizio Seracini has claimed that he would use a revolutionary new technology to find out whether the fresco, which has not been seen since 1563, lies behind a wall in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio.
"This is an incredibly important moment," the Telegraph quoted Seracini, as saying.
Prof. Seracini, who is mentioned in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, has been involved in solving the mystery behind the Battle of Anghiari for over 30 years.
He said that Giorgio Vasari, the artist and art historian, purposely hid the fresco in order to preserve it.
The Battle of Anghiari was commissioned in 1503 after Piero de Medici was deposed as ruler of Florence and the city was briefly proclaimed a republic.
According to Vasari, a "public decree" was issued, saying that Leonardo should paint something to mark the republic and was granted a space in the Hall of the Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio.
However, the Medicis returned to power in the 1560s and Vasari was ordered to refurbish the hall and to hide Leonardo' work.
Thus Vasari painted a new fresco in its place, the Battle of Marciano.
"I am sure that Vasari could not bring himself to destroy Da Vinci's finest work," said Prof. Seracini.
He added that Vasari built a new wall in front of the fresco, leaving a gap of between one and three centimetres to protect it.
Prof. Seracini explained that Vasari had left a small clue at the very top of his new work, a flag bearing the inscription: "He who seeks shall find".
Till now, the flag, which is invisible from floor level, has been impossible to spot behind the second wall.
However, Prof. Seracini said he would use "neutron analysis" to identify certain colours, since the paints used by Vasari and Leonardo differed.
Leonardo used mineral-based paints, while Vasari painted with oils.
Prof. Seracini said that the neutrons will be fired through the wall and the rays that bounce back should disclose if there is any paint on the back wall.
Prof. Seracini's specially designed machine costs 450,000 pounds. The work will begin in October and be finished by January.
"Leonardo kept a lot of lists. We have the chemical compositions of the paints. We are looking for an intense blue, made with lapis lazuli, in particular," said Prof. Seracini.