March 20, 2021

The Lost Artworks of Leonardo Da Vinci

The day is April 15, 1452. On this day, one of history’s most influential people was born in Vinci, Italy. Today we know him as Leonardo Da Vinci, the person behind the world-famous Mona Lisa painting. But did you know he was also a man of many talents and skills? He was a scientist, inventor, artist, sculpture, and painter, all rolled into one. He was as creative as he was sharp. He was the first Renaissance Man. There is that word again.

He was great at many things and had ideas, some of which were too forward for his time. He was born during a period when Europe was taking immense strides in the fields of arts, culture and science. Da Vinci’s work frankly spoke for the continent’s ascent into a period of Renaissance. He passed away on May 2, 1519, in France, but not without leaving a rich legacy of inventions and creations that defy our understanding of the human intellect.

Almost 502 years later, this Italian genius continues to fascinate us. Today we will be looking at some of his most obscure artworks that were either lost or destroyed.

Medusa Shield

Long regarded as one of Da Vinci’s most mysterious creations, the “Medusa Shield” painting has acquired near-mythical status. Historical accounts say that a very young Leonardo painted the snake-haired monster from Greek mythology on a shield. The shield painting was so life-like that his father was horrified and got rid of it. Art historian Giorgio Vasari says that Leo’s father sold it to some merchants from Florentine. While Vasari told this story in 1550, modern historians disputed his account. Imagine if this was true, it could have made for one heck of a debut for the young Leonardo.

The Battle of Anghiari

Does ‘The Battle of Anghiari’ even exist? This piece continues to be a subject of heated debates between art historians in the 21st century. The illustration depicts a clash between Florence and Milan in 1440. From the art style seen above, we can see soldiers and horses from two sides clashing. Accounts state that Leonardo wanted to start on this project in 1503. Records exist that he even got materials for it. But he never got around to painting it.

Why do some art historians believe this illustration to be Da Vinci’s? A popular theory goes that art historian Giorgio Vasari saved this design from getting destroyed after Leo’s death. He did so by hiding it behind a fresco of his own. Art historian Maurizio Seracini and his team are firm believers in this theory. They discovered that five other frescos by Vasari, who was a painter himself, featuring no gaps. However, the one that contains Da Vinci’s Battle of Anghiari painting features a two-inch gap. This allowed historians to retrieve paint samples from his work.

Another supporting theory suggests that the black pigment recovered from the Battle of Anghiari matches two of Leonardo’s paintings – the Mona Lisa and St. John the Baptist. Historical accounts say that Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa at the same time.

“Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa in Florence at the same time. It appears to be a pigment used by [him] and not by other artists.” Maurizio Seracini, historian

Nonetheless, Mr Seracini’s contemporaries in the art world dispute this. They say many of Leonardo’s colleagues have also used the same pigment for their creations.

Salvator Mundi

Real or unreal? Critics continue to debate whether the Salvator Mundi is by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Talk about a long-lost painting by the Old Master that miraculously reappeared out of nowhere in the modern world. Or did it?

Salvator Mundi is a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci that depicts Jesus Christ. In 2005, art historian Robert Simon took a ‘copy’ of the artwork for restoration by Dianne Dwyer Modestini. Dianne worked at restoring the painting, a process that takes several years at best. As an artist who was intimately familiar with other works by the old maestro, she began to notice a pattern. The ‘copy’ shared a lot of similarities with other pieces from Da Vinci. Be it the nose, the eyes, even the hair curls, it was hard to discount that she wasn’t working on a mere copy.

Since people believed this painting to be a copy, it was sold off for £45 in the 1950s. Fast forward to 2017, once Dianne’s findings came to light, it fetched $450.3 million in 2017!

It gets more mysterious from there. The painting was sold at a Christie’s auction to an unnamed individual. Many believe its current owner to be Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, though this information has not been publicly confirmed.

The world-famous French museum, the Louvre, had long wanted to get their hands on this painting. Though it was supposed to be exhibited in 2019, a last-minute cancellation by its owner raised more questions than it answered. It seems the Salvator Mundi may well be lost again from the public eye this time.

Codex Leicester

What do you do when you are one of the modern world’s most powerful and richest individuals? Well, if you are a Billionaire, then you absolutely need to own a piece of Leonardo da Vinci’s work for your own private collection.

Bill Gates is the owner of Codex Leicester, a rare manuscript by the Old Master himself. Da Vinci’s notepad contained drawings, sketches, and text, all written in his trademark ‘mirror writing’ style. The notebook contains Leonardo’s theories about water.

Codex Leicester was recently shown at an exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Just like the man himself, Leonardo Da Vinci’s creations are rarely as simple as they appear. No wonder the world is in awe of them, and they remain jealously guarded. If found, the lost artworks of Da Vinci are bound to have a major impact on art history due to the controversies many of his works infamously. So, like many others out there, we hope more Da Vinci artworks are found soon in the hopes of learning new things.