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In Leonardo's Lost Princess, Silverman tells the riveting story of how his initial suspicions of the portrait's provenance grew as one art expert after another confirmed his view that this haunting image was, indeed, created in the fifteenth century, that the artist was certainly left-handed, and that the quality of the work was extraordinarily fine. Few, least of all Silverman himself, were willing to even hint that it was the rarest of all finds, an original masterpiece by the greatest painter in history. More proof was needed, but where could it be found?
Silverman's account of the cutting-edge science used to authenticate the portrait—from radiocarbon dating to multispectral photography—is as fascinating as it is convincing. Not only were scientists able to prove that the materials dated from Leonardo da Vinci's lifetime, an analysis of photos taken of the portrait using thirteen different light spectra revealed beyond doubt that the work was made by the master himself. They also provided hints to the drawing's history over the intervening centuries.
Still, many questions remained unanswered. Who was this poised and beautiful young woman? Why had Leonardo, who was very busy at the time with multiple projects for his patron, the Duke of Milan, and others, spent valuable time making this small and modest portrait in chalk and ink? Where had it been hiding for five centuries? The answers to these questions could only be found through good, old-fashioned research and legwork, which would take investigators from Paris to Milan to, improbably, Warsaw. The answers they found are surprising, revealing, and often moving.
Complete with vivid accounts of the art-world controversy sparked by Silverman's claim, similar controversies over the authenticity of works supposedly by Leonardo, and the very different lives of Leonardo and the lovely young woman who was his subject, Leonardo's Lost Princess is part whodunit, part revealing exposé, and all-enthralling tale of an impossible dream come true.
In 1496, a beautiful princess was preparing to marry in Milan. Bianca was the daughter of Duke Ludovico Sforza and betrothed to Galeazzo Sanseverino, commander of the duke's armies. Portraits were often commissioned during the Renaissance to mark major events in a subject's life, and a court artist named Leonardo da Vinci was given the task of memorializing Bianca.
Tragically, the princess died soon after her wedding. Then her portrait, the last evidence of her existence, was also lost.
At a New York City gallery in 2007, Peter Silverman saw a portrait catalogued as "German, early 19th century." Thinking it misattributed and regretting not buying it once before, he scooped it up for a mere $19,000 and began a long quest to discover its origins. He hardly dared utter the "L" word: Leonardo.
Giants in the field of art history and scholarship soon would, though, as the best of connoisseurship was used to authenticate La Bella Principessa. Science would then confirm their judgments. The picture was carbon-dated, digitally examined with multispectral imaging, even scrutinized for fingerprints—and one of Leonardo's was found along with a palm print. Bianca was identified as the subject, and her clothes and hair were matched to those of her period.
Many in the art community still would not believe, but Silverman persisted and, with the help of Leonardo scholar Martin Kemp, discovered its provenance: the tribute book from which the picture had been removed. After more than 500 years the beautiful princess was home again.
The picture is valued at $150 million, but its value to the art world is incalculable—and its story is unforgettable.
Fascinating book. It's written by the man who was, at the very least, eager to be convinced that what he had bought was a genuine work by Leonardo da Vinci, but the tests run, etc. Read morePublished 2 months ago by B A Harrison
Bought this after watching a documentary on this portrait. It's such a beautiful story. That first few chapters were great as he described how he obtained the portrait. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Susan Redbone
I enjoyed reading through this book the entire story behind the finding of the Lost Princess by Leonardo da Vinci, there was full proof of its authenticity and Peter Silverman has... Read morePublished 7 months ago by F. R. Castro Vega
Would there be a book if the drawing were not by Leonardo? Not exactly a mystery, interesting mix of science and intuition.Published 8 months ago by Callie
Fabulous book! A must-read. A real page-turner by a witty, scholarly,
yet down to earth author who invites you into his world.
I learned about the book while attending to a lecture on Leonardo's paintings at Lacma. The book opened a window on subjects like art, history, money and I love it.Published 15 months ago by Norberta
My husband and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Peter and Kathy Silverman at a coffee shop on Madison Avenue in New York this past November. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Laurel
This remarkable story should be read by everyone who is in the remotest or even in the most profound way, interested in art, art history, the art world, technology, science and... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Anne Satterthwaite