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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Artists added to Da Vinci work
Detail of Adoration of the Magi in visible light
Adoration of the Magi was commissioned by monks
X-rays of Leonardo da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi have revealed that the majority of paint was added by other artists after he left the work unfinished, scientists have said.

The painting, which hangs in the famous Uffizi art gallery in Florence, was the subject of a nine-month study by Florence-based art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini.

Detail of horse from Adoration of the Magi
Thick colour and varnish obscure some of the detail
Mr Seracini used X-ray, infra-red, ultraviolet and high-resolution digital photography to produce thousands of detailed images of the work.

The study was commissioned by the gallery itself, to help planned cleaning and restoration work connected with oxidised varnishes on the surface of the painting.

Mr Seracini told BBC News Online: "Most of the paint has been added later. This dark orange colour is the result of colour added later."

But he insisted that the figures and the composition were the work of Leonardo and the study had allowed viewers to see the "incredibly beautiful under-drawing and see his creativity, see all of his ideas."

He maintained: "That is the most sensational result, not how much paint was left originally."

Detail of horse from Adoration of the Magi revealing warrior lloking away
Infra-red images reveal new details
The painting was commissioned from Da Vinci by a monastery at Scopeto, close to Florence. But the master left the city a year later, leaving the work unfinished.

Seracini, who has run art diagnostics firm Editech since 1977 and studied more than 2,000 paintings, said: "It looked unfinished, very little paint was on it.

"Whoever was the new owner wanted to have a painting, wanted it to look more like a painting than a big drawing on a panel."

It is hoped that the study, when completed in a few months time, will help restorers in the delicate task of cleaning the painting.

Maurizio Seracini stands by the painting
Four types of image analysis were used
Mr Seracini added: "[The gallery] thought it necessary to see what the state of conservation was.

"It gives you a different type of understanding of the genesis of the painting, revealing all the previous restorations.

"In the medical world, no one would send you through to surgery unless all the tests had been done first."

Art historians should not be surprised if similar findings come when other works by Da Vinci get the same treatment.

"If you consider the total number works attributed to Leonardo you would be surprised how few of them have been scientifically studied," Mr Seracini said.

See also:

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