The Hunt: Leonardo da Vinci’s Fabled Lost Mural

Featured image: Leonardo da Vinci, The Battle of Anghiari, 1500. Photo by Picturenow/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

by Brian Boucher May 8, 2024

Cerca, trove. “Seek and ye shall find.”

So reads a painted flag in a mural in Florence’s town hall, which one researcher is convinced is a clue to the location of one of art history’s great lost artworks: a major mural by Leonardo da Vinci. The Battle of Anghiari, from the first decade of the 16th century, was commissioned by statesman Piero Soderini and intended to glorify Florentine forces’ victory over Milanese troops in a 1440 battle.

But does it even exist? No one knows for sure.

It lives on in drawings by artists who admired it, including one by no less than Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens, now in the Louvre’s collection. But if today you visit the Palazzo Vecchio’s Hall of Five Hundred (a room built to accommodate the city council) and go to the spot where Leonardo’s mural may have been, you’ll see one from decades later by artist and art historian Giorgio Vasari, wherein the cryptic Cerca, trove message is tucked away.

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