- Leonardo da Vinci drew this amazing pictures in ‘metalpoint’ which faded away
- The pen-strokes decayed and vanished until the invention of ultraviolet lamp
- Now, pioneering science has brought back to life the great master’s work
These remarkable drawings of hands by Leonardo da Vinci, invisible for centuries, are to be shown in public for the first time.
Drawn in ‘metalpoint’ in the 15th century, they gradually faded to look like blank paper as the copper in the pen-strokes decayed.
Art experts knew there were indentations on two sheets in a prized album of Leonardo drawings which entered the collection of Charles II two centuries later, but the hands were not seen until the advent of ultraviolet lamps in the 20th century.
These remarkable drawings of hands by Leonardo da Vinci, invisible for centuries, are to be shown in public for the first time
Now known to be studies for the hands in Leonardo’s 1481 painting Adoration of the Magi, the paper is now so fragile that the sheets are rarely permitted into the light.
But to mark the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death, they will join more than 200 drawings for the largest exhibition of his work in more than 65 years, to be shown across Britain from next February.
The originals will be displayed alongside a photograph of the ultraviolet image and curators say it’s the ‘one and only chance’ in many people’s lifetimes to see them.
As spokesman for the Royal Collection Trust, which owns the works, said: ‘What appear to be two completely blank sheets of paper from this album will be on public display for the first time at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace.
‘Leonardo executed the studies of hands in metalpoint, which involves drawing with a metal stylus on prepared paper.’
X-ray fluorescent light tests at the UK’s national synchrotron in Harwell, Oxfordshire, showed why the lines had vanished.
The spokesman explained that it was due to ‘the high copper content in the stylus that Leonardo used – the metal reacted over time to become a transparent copper salt’.