Historians say they may have uncovered traces of one of the art world's greatest mysteries: a long-lost masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci.
It was thought the fresco "Battle of Anghiari" may be behind a wall in the Palazzo Vecchio palace in Florence, hidden from view for more than four centuries.
Traces believed to be from Da Vinci's work were collected using tiny probes through the wall covering the original surface. The samples contained black pigment also used in Da Vinci's renowned "Mona Lisa", officials and historians said Monday.
"The composition of manganese and iron found in the black pigment has been identified exclusively on Leonardo's paintings," University of California, San Diego professor Maurizio Seracini, whose methods have sometimes stirred art world controversy, told reporters in the Italian city.
Seracini added that both the "Mona Lisa" and "Battle of Anghiari" were inked at around the same time in the 16th Century, but said more research would be needed to confirm the preliminary results.
"Together with art historians and scientists combining historical evidence and technology, this research team has unlocked a mystery that has been with us for more than 500 years," said Terry Garcia, an executive vice president of the US National Geographic Society, which sponsored the research.
The experts pointed to documentary evidence from the period showing that only Leonardo could have been the author of any work on the older wall.
Critics say the search for the Da Vinci fresco at Palazzo Vecchio should be abandoned because of the damage it is doing to a work by Da Vinci's contemporary, Giorgio Vasari, on the newer wall.
The central scene of the "Battle of Anghiari" depicts four horsemen battling for possession of a heraldic standard at the battle in 1440. Da Vinci began painting the piece in 1505 but abandoned the work after the colors began to run.
dfm/sjt (AFP, AP)