Rome – It’s an artistic mystery involving fingerprints, Leonardo da Vinci and a disputed masterpiece that hangs in Rome.


The whodunit’s about who did the work on The Adoration Of The Christ Child attributed to Fra Bartolomeo in Rome’s Galleria Borghese. Some of the illustrious names to come up through the centuries are Raphael, Ghirlandaio and Lorenzo di Credi, but scholars have never been sure.

A crucial clue – or perhaps a red herring – came during a recent restoration: a centuries-old fingerprint fixed in the paint. That, along with stylistic similarities, made scholars think of Leonardo – who sometimes left a digital imprint on his works as a kind of signature.

“Once it was restored, a kind of yellowish halo could be seen in the sky in the upper left,” the chief restorer Elisabetta Zatti said on Tuesday, describing the fingerprint she discovered on the painting Italians call the Tondo – meaning “round” – after its circular shape.

Photographs of the Adoration will be flown in March to Krakow, Poland, to compare its fingerprint, uncovered at the end of a yearlong restoration that ended in November, with the one on the Leonardo masterpiece Lady With An Ermine.

Other hitherto hidden details of the painting were uncovered in the restoration, including typically Leonardesque symbolism like wild primrose, which represents resurrection, and the blue veronica flower, symbol of the eyes of the Virgin Mary.

Perhaps most strikingly, the restoration work revealed that the Virgin Mary had the large and somewhat masculine hands that are a hallmark of many female figures in Leonardo’s work.

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