Art Experts Find Possible New da Vinci

By: Rob Gillies - AP Writer
By: Rob Gillies - AP Writer

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 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 da Vinci.

Biro said Canadian-born art collector Peter Silverman bought "La Bella Principessa" at auction in 1997 for about $19,000. One London art dealer now says it's worth over $150 million.

If experts are correct, it will be the first major work by da Vinci 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 3-D images of the painting taken by the Luminere Technology laboratory in Paris. The lab used a special 3-D 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 da Vinci. Biro said there's strong consensus among art experts that it is a da Vinci painting.

"I would say it is priceless. There aren't that many Leonardo's 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).

Asked what Silverman's reaction was when he found out about the fingerprint, Biro said: "There was already a fairly good consensus about the piece before I was asked to consult on this case. Peter's reaction was that the fingerprint was the icing on the cake. Those were his words."


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