Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci discovered in Basilicata

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What may be a hitherto unknown portrait of Leonardo da Vinci in middle age shows that the Renaissance genius had piercing blue eyes, a long nose and long greying hair with a droopy moustache.

The damaged oil-on-panel portrait was discovered by Nicola Barbatelli, a medieval historian, while he was researching the archive and picture collection of an aristocratic family at Acerenza (population 3,000), an ancient village perched on a rock above the river Bradano near Potenza in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. The family has asked to remain anonymous.

At one time thought to portray Galileo Galilei, the great astronomer, it shows a man in three-quarter profile wearing a hat with a feather in it. Mr Barbatelli, who found the painting by chance while researching the history of the Templar Knights and the First Crusade, told The Times that although Leonardo came from Vinci in Tuscany and worked in Florence and Milan, he was known to have visited Basilicata.

Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci at Vinci, where the artist was born in 1452, said initial examination of the painting showed it was a Renaissance era original and not a later copy. He said he was investigating whether the painting was by Cristofano dell’Altissimo, who painted the da Vinci portrait in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

The portrait is to go on show at the end of next month as part of an exhibition on Leonardo at a recently opened museum at Vaglio, near Potenza, together with other paintings, drawings and documents loaned from the Museo Ideale.

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