Maurizio Seracini welcomes Queen Beatrix to the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
While the search for a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece by UC San Diego's Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3) is temporarily on hold pending the outcome of forthcoming elections in Italy, project leader and alumnus Maurizio Seracini (Class of ’73) played host to royalty when Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands arrived in Florence for a private visit on October 15.
Ahead of the visit, her staff contacted Seracini, who leads several CISA3 projects based in Florence, including the search for da Vinci's lost mural, The Battle of Anghiari. He also directs a new UC San Diego initiative to create a Florence-based research center for engineering in medicine and cultural heritage.
Her Majesty and Seracini in the Hall of the 500 where da Vinci painted “The Battle of Anghiari”.
The masterpiece disappeared in the mid-16th century when the great hall of Florence's Palazzo Vecchio was renovated and expanded by architect and artist Giorgio Vasari. For more than 35 years, Seracini has searched for proof that the mural remains hidden behind a brick wall and mural by Vasari himself.
On an earlier visit to Florence when Seracini was in San Diego, Queen Beatrix was given a brief tour of the Palazzo Vecchio and its Hall of the 500. But when she planned a second trip, she asked for a guided, behind-the-scences tour of the space by Seracini in order to learn more about the effort to find da Vinci's mural.
Accompanied by a group of about 8-10 family, friends and local diplomats, the Dutch queen arrived in the Hall of the 500 clearly interested in the effort to find a long-lost masterpiece. During the tour, Seracini explained the status of the search, which was recently put on hold after the Minister of Cultural Heritage failed to support a plan by the Mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, to give Seracini and CISA3 permission to resume working in the Palazzo Vecchio. Just before Queen Beatrix's visit, the scaffolding erected in front of Vasari's mural was taken down on orders from Mayor Renzi, who was forced to halt the project (although he expressed his desire to resume the search if there is a change of government and the current Minister of Cultural Heritage, Lorenzo Ornaghi, is ousted from that position).
The Dutch queen, family and friends get a behind-the-scenes tour.
Seracini fielded questions from Queen Beatrix and her retinue, and introduced her to fellow researchers including Samantha Stout, a Ph.D. student in materials science in UCSD's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department, who has spent much of the past year in Florence working with Prof. Seracini on the Anghiari project. Stout is a Fellow of the NSF-funded Integrated Graduate Education, Research and Training (IGERT) project in CISA3 which focuses on engineering and diagnostics for cultural heritage conservation.
Stout and Seracini guided Queen Beatrix up a narrow staircase to a location just under the ornate ceiling of the Hall of the 500. "We went up to the ceiling to talk about the structure of the building, and more generally about structural engineering for conservation," says Stout.