Is the Portrait of Lecco by Leonardo? X-rays to solve the mystery

Thanks to the collaboration of Gilardoni, new analyzes on sanguine drawing

Meanwhile, the study of Professor Rolando Bellini continues, who has been investigating the work for a year

LECCO – The Portrait of Lecco and of Leonardo da Vinci? Difficult to say exactly but there Gallo-Mazzoleni familyowner of the “mysterious work”, is continuing the investigation into the drawing in sanguine renamed Portrait of Lecco which, probably, could be attributable to the Tuscan genius. After one in-depth study on paper which led to the belief that the design dates back to the mid-fifteenth century, a new step forward has been made in recent days.

The analysis phase

Thanks to a partnership with Gilardoni X-rayswell-known company of Mandello, Wednesday 13 April the work was the subject of a complex analysis made possible by the latest generation machinery for which the Lecco company is a world leader. On the drawing, in fact, some microfocus tomographic and radioscopic analyzes with multi-energy technique. But that’s not all, because the tests performed a Besnate (VA) at Eidosolutions (company acquired by Gilardoni Spa in November 2018) from the department research and studies for non-destructive testing applied to artwas an opportunity to present the professor Rolando Belliniprofessor of art history, graphic art, museology and aesthetics at theBrera Academy of Fine Arts in Milanand art history atInternational University of Art of Florence, who has been studying opera for a year. But let’s go in order.

Massimo Mazzoleni with his wife Silvia Gallo, in the center Professor Rolando Bellini

Tomography on Leonardo’s possible drawing

“Gilardoni Raggi X turns 75 this year. It was founded in 1947 by Arturo Gilardoni a scientist in the field of radiology which, at the time, was a new technique. Arturo Gilardoni’s adventure expands and during the economic boom the X-ray technique finds application in various fields, accompanying the development and needs of society and the world – explains general manager Davide Baratto -. In particular, already in the 70s, Gilardoni became passionate about applications in field of cultural heritage making analyzes of very important paintings, mummies and various finds. Over the years Gilardoni has developed specific systems for works of art, something unique in the world “.

The general manager of Gilardoni X-rays Davide Baratto
The general manager of Gilardoni X-rays Davide Baratto

Since then, technology has made great strides and today Gilardoni X-rays can count on the latest generation techniques to understand what Leonardo’s alleged drawing can tell us: “In fact we went to perform a tomography, a Tac, as well as a whole series of innovative techniques (revolutionary in the artistic field) such as multienergetic analysis. Just last March we were atInternational Atomic Energy Agency, members of a table for the definition of contents for the training and certification of people who, in the field of cultural heritage, want to apply radiological techniques for analysis. In fact, we are working on creating a path for the training of these new professional figures “.

Gilardoni, the only Italian company for the production of systems for non-destructive testing, becomes aware of the Portrait of Lecco and decides to make himself available: “We are a company closely linked to our territory and we have become aware of this work, therefore we have proposed to the owners to make use of our technology to understand if it can be of support to the numerous analyzes and studies that are already being carried out. The hope is to find elements that can strengthen the hypothesis that Leonardo’s hand actually exists. Specifically, we went for a tomography, a three-dimensional X-ray reconstruction using a microfocus tomograph. For X-rays it is the most in-depth study possible, a revolutionary approach because I believe an analysis of this type has never been made on such a finding. Usually radiographic plates are made, here we are talking about digital, three-dimensional technologies and we will also experiment with multi-energetic analyzes “.

The drawing was exposed to X-rays for acquired images (more than a thousand) at various angles in order to reconstruct the three-dimensional image. We work at very high resolution with many projections, the acquisition phase alone takes about an hour and a half: “It is a challenge for us too: we have never done it and we are happy to be able to try”.

The study of Professor Rolando Bellini

Rolando Bellinia well-known academic, is a professor of art history, graphic art, museology and aesthetics at theBrera Academy of Fine Arts in Milanand art history atInternational University of Art of Florence. Specializing in Michelangelo, he is equally interested in Leonardo. His studies are aimed at investigating the links between art and science in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, particularly during his stay in Lombardy. As an art critic he has collaborated with numerous galleries and art studios.

Professor Rolando Bellini

He’s been running one for over a year now in-depth study on the Portrait of Lecco to understand if, indeed, it can be attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci. He too wanted to visit the Gilardoni X-ray division in charge of the analyzes: “We certainly hope that these further analyzes will allow us to extend our gaze on this work, allowing us to discover some circumstantial elements – explained Professor Bellini -. We have not yet reached the conclusions because otherwise we would not be here. Certainly we are at the point of saying that there is a find that has its own quality and its own identity. We analyzed it by forgetting as much as possible any ascription, considering it ‘only’ a beautiful drawing. We analyzed what it represents, what it is, what period it is, what material it is … Then we turned the telescope upside down and asked ourselves who is the most probable element: it is the Leonardesque area“.

When it comes to the Leonardesque area, the road immediately becomes uphill: “We are working with due prudence, especially because, in my particular case, it would be the second drawing I find by Leonardo, so we are going very calmly. From a scholar’s point of view it is not so relevant to say ‘is’, but rather to say ‘why it is’ or ‘why it could be’ and what leads to the knowledge of the character involved. We are certainly in Leonardo’s circle, this is certain and also confirmed by other scholars. Before throwing a hypothesis there, however, I wanted to take a different path and in the end I came to say that if we are in that area we need to come up with a name. The problem is this: which name is more plausible and how do I propose it? This plausibility is obtained through solutions that must come from the work “.

The knot is not easy to solve and the aspects to consider are many and very thorough: “It is not an easy study, but it is fascinating. It is a beautiful journey and somehow corresponds to the meaning attributed to the journey by Leonardo himself. We need to think about turning all the pages of the history book and discovering the complexity: this is Leonardo, that’s why he is so fascinating. Now let’s see how it goes with the Portrait of Lecco: it is a drawing that has suffered, there is an opacity of reading. It is a design that has also been mistreated by history though it is such a particular design that it cannot fail to raise questions. It all lies in establishing how much one can approach the drawings irrefutably assigned to Leonardo’s hand… we’ll see. Thanks to these new analyzes, perhaps we can see something that we have not yet seen and that the human eye cannot see. Even a denial could tell us a lot: whether there is visual evidence or there isn’t, it’s always a valid answer to me. The paradigm changes but the path does not change “.

Massimo Mazzoleni

Portrait of Lecco, a drawing that has been under study since 2019

The Portrait of Lecconow since 2019, is owned by Gallo-Mazzoleni family who got it through the acquisition from a private individual. Since then, in-depth studies have begun on this sanguine design that have gone in every direction until, in recent days, the collaboration with the Gilardoni X-rays from Mandello.

“We became aware of this possibility thanks to Mr. Gianmario Maver that for over 30 years worked at Gilardoni X-rays – he explained Massimo Mazzoleni – For the Mandello-based company it certainly represents an interesting experimentation, for us it obviously represents the possibility of taking a further step forward in knowing this design. For sure there is still a lot to work and still a lot to discover, I believe that we are only at the beginning of a journey made up of years of study, evaluations and, why not, even conflicting opinions. The fact that emerges, also by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage following the studies carried out so far, it is that this drawing by an unknown author is of Leonardesque scope. It remains to be seen whether it is attributable to the hand of Leonardo Da Vinci. I am also particularly happy with the collaboration with Professor Bellini who has been working on this design for a year now ”.

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