Art experts find possible new da Vinci

October 14, 2009 9:31:11 AM PDT
Art experts believe they have identified a new Leonardo da Vinci -- in part by examining a fingerprint on the canvas.Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal-based forensic art expert, said Tuesday that a fingerprint on what was presumed to be a 19th-century German painting of a young woman has convinced art experts that it's actually a Leonardo.

Canadian-born art collector Peter Silverman bought "Profile of the Bella Principessa" at the Ganz gallery in New York on behalf of an anonymous Swiss collector in 2007 for about $19,000. New York art dealer Kate Ganz had owned it for about 11 years after buying it at auction for a similar price.One London art dealer now says it could be worth more than $150 million.

If experts are correct, it will be the first major work by Leonardo to be identified in 100 years. Biro said the print of an index or middle finger was found on the painting and that it matched a fingerprint from da Vinci's "St. Jerome" in the Vatican.

Biro examined multispectral images of the painting taken by the Luminere Technology laboratory in Paris. The lab used a special digital scanner to show successive layers of the work.

"Leonardo used his hands liberally and frequently as part of his painting technique. His fingerprints are found on many of his works," Biro said. "I was able to make use of multispectral images to make a little smudge a very readable fingerprint."

Technical, stylistic and material composition evidence also point to it being a Leonardo. Biro said there's strong consensus among art experts that it is a Leonardo painting.

"I would say it is priceless. There aren't that many Leonardos in existence," Biro said. He said he had heard that one London dealer felt it could be worth 100 million British pounds (more than $150 million).

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