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Cameras

Kickstarter spotlight: search for a lost da Vinci mural

Here's a camera story with a difference: an American photojournalist is on the search for a lost mural from a Renaissance master, and wants to use a gamma camera to find it.

Here's a camera story with a difference: an American photojournalist is on the search for a lost mural from a Renaissance master, and wants to use a gamma camera to find it.

da Vinci
(Screenshot by CBSi)

Dave Yoder is a photojournalist who has been working on an assignment for National Geographic to search for a lost Leonardo da Vinci mural in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. The mural, known as "The Battle of Anghiari", is considered by many art historians to be an incredibly significant piece in Renaissance art. It was lost when the hall was renovated in 1563 and the walls were frescoed by artist Giorgio Vasari.

The mystery of the lost mural took yet another turn when Dr Maurizio Seracini decided to find a way to uncover the da Vinci masterpiece. By using radar to detect a small gap between a section of the Vasari wall and the original stone wall behind, Seracini concluded that the da Vinci work could be located behind the Vasari fresco. There's even a cryptic message in Vasari's work, which prompts the viewer to "Cerca Trova", or seek and you will find. Enter Yoder in 2007, who — thanks to his photographic background — wanted to take a picture of the da Vinci work through the wall.

Traditional cameras as we know them are definitely not able to take photos through walls. Yoder met and enlisted the help of Dr Robert Smither, a senior physicist from Argonne National Laboratory's Advanced Photon Source. He was working on an invention that might just do the trick; a copper crystal mosaic gamma ray diffraction lens that was initially designed for taking high-resolution images of tumours. Some initial tests on pigment samples yielded positive results.

Where does Kickstarter come in all of this? Yoder is using the site to raise US$266,500 to fund the further development of this camera to see if the painting is actually located underneath the Vasari fresco and, more importantly, to take a picture of it without damaging or affecting the work in front. At the time of writing, the project is just shy of US$20,000 of the final target. For more information on the search, and to support the project, watch the video below and visit the Kickstarter page here. Photos from Yoder's journey so far can be viewed on his website.

Kickstarter.com is a crowd-sourced funding scheme for independent projects. The website is full of awesome ideas just waiting to be put into production, including art projects, feature films, music, theatre and technology. Kickstarter spotlight is designed to help you discover fantastic projects to sponsor, but is in no way affiliated with the artists or Kickstarter.