Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘earliest painting discovered’ after 600 years by eagle-eyed art sleuth who spotted it hiding a fascinating secret.
Italian scholars say they have discovered the earliest known work by Leonardo da Vinci – a portrait of the archangel Gabriel.
They said infrared analysis revealed a tiny signature on the jawline of the angel’s face which, when magnified, reads “Da Vinci Lionardo” with a date, 1471.
If verified, it would be his earliest surviving work, as well as his earliest known signature. He would have been 18 when he painted the portrait, which appears on a majolica glazed tile.
“We have done everything humanly possible to verify its provenance,” said Professor Ernesto Solari, an art historian.
“Science has provided us with concrete evidence that this work is by Leonardo da Vinci. We think the painting was with great probability a self-portrait of Leonardo – Gabriel was like a rock star … people wanted to be associated with him.”
However, Professor Martin Kemp, of the University of Oxford, said the painting compared poorly with Leonardo’s current earliest known work – The Annunciation, painted in 1472 or 1473 – with Gabriel’s hair “spectacularly unconvincing … it looks like vermicelli”.