Leonardo's Lost Princess: One Man's Quest to Authenticate an Unknown Portrait by Leonardo Da Vinci

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Overview

How an oddly attributed $19,000 picture proved to be a $100 million work by Leonardo da Vinci—a true art-world detective story

In late 2010, art collector Peter Silverman revealed that a "German, early 19th century" portrait he had bought for $19,000 was, in fact, a previously unknown drawing by Leonardo da Vinci—an exquisite depiction of Bianca Sforza, rendered 500 years ago. In Leonardo's Lost Princess, Silverman gives a riveting first-person account of how his initial ...

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Overview

How an oddly attributed $19,000 picture proved to be a $100 million work by Leonardo da Vinci—a true art-world detective story

In late 2010, art collector Peter Silverman revealed that a "German, early 19th century" portrait he had bought for $19,000 was, in fact, a previously unknown drawing by Leonardo da Vinci—an exquisite depiction of Bianca Sforza, rendered 500 years ago. In Leonardo's Lost Princess, Silverman gives a riveting first-person account of how his initial suspicions of the portrait's provenance were confirmed repeatedly by scientists and art experts. He describes the path to authentication, fraught with opposition and controversy. The twists and turns of this fascinating, decade-long quest lead from art history to cutting-edge science, and from a New York art gallery to Paris, Milan, Zurich, and ultimately a Warsaw library where the final, convincing evidence that the portrait was indeed by da Vinci was found.

  • Takes an up-close look at the workings of the art world and at figures ranging from dealers and connoisseurs to a suspected forger
  • Discusses current scientific techniques used to investigate and authenticate works of art, such as carbon dating and cutting-edge photography
  • Uses Silverman's drawing as an entree into Leonardo da Vinci's world: his studio, his style, and his methods
  • Explores the intersection of art and science in the authentication process, involving the work of a man who embodied that intersection

Unearthing the secrets almost lost to history, the book is ideal reading for art lovers and anyone interested in an astounding case of "whodunit."

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

"A long-lost love refound. And the feeling of inevitability—fate put her in my hands after having missed her ten years back." Art collector Peter Silverman wasn't talking about a Nicholas Sparks reunion with a ravishing old soulmate; he was referring to his retrieval of a $147,000,000 Leonardo Da Vinci that he had previously missed purchasing for a mere $19,000. As Leonardo's Lost Princess demonstrates, the story of this 9"x13" chalk, ink and pencil drawing doesn't begin or end there; in fact, it takes us into the high-stakes world of forensic studies and masterpiece attribution. A real-life mystery story for art lovers.

Michelle Marozik

Library Journal
Art collector Silverman fell in love with a small portrait of a beautiful young woman, which he came to call La Bella Principessa. He became convinced it was by Leonardo da Vinci, and began a struggle to authenticate the portrait, inciting doubt and excitement in the art world. He carefully details his steps to discover the portrait's true origins: one, multispectral imaging, magnified and detected key elements unique to Leonardo's hand, including his fingerprint and palm impression. Silverman also determined the likely identity of the young lady as noblewoman Bianca Sforza. VERDICT A fascinating look at the inner workings of art attribution, the book takes a subject that could be dry and makes it breathe. Not only does Silverman make a convincing case; he may be pioneering the process for future authentications of works of art with the latest scientific equipment. Specialists will be interested because of the controversy La Bella Principessa has caused, and general readers will be interested because the possibility of finding a new Leonardo is a public event. Recommended.—Ellen Bates, New York
T. Rees Shapiro
Silverman's book is a fascinating tale with Da Vinci Codesque twists.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470936405
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 1/24/2012
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 252,279
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

PETER SILVERMAN is a noted art collector. Among his significant discoveries are three miscatalogued works by Van Dyck and a wooden cross attributed to Michelangelo.

CATHERINE WHITNEY has written or cowritten more than fifty books in a variety of fields.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

1 Found! 1

2 Who Is She? 15

3 Leonardo’s World 23

4 Real or Fake? 35

5 The Magic Box 51

6 A Scholar’s View 71

7 Leonardo’s Principles 79

8 Beloved Daughter 91

9 The Art of Fingerprints 105

10 The World Reacts 117

11 The $100 Million Blunder? 129

12 The Art World Strikes Back 145

13 What Constitutes Proof? 167

14 Miracle in Warsaw 183

Epilogue: Life’s Fleeting Grace 197

Appendix: Nicholas Turner’s Report on Portrait of a Young Woman in Profile 201

Notes 213

Bibliography 239

Index 243

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 15, 2012

    Excellent book!

    This is a very well written story about the discovery of a lost Da Vinci work of art. This exquisite chalk on vellum was discovered about 5 or 6 years ago. The story is about the discovery and the painful process of getting the work authenticated. Most people would have given up but not this art lover. It is full of all the things that make a great art discovery worth every moment of pain through the moment of dicovery, the purchase and the long and tedious process of authentication. Well worth the read!

    Jo-JoNC

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  • Posted March 23, 2012

    I read your book this week and am thrilled with your undertaking

    I read your book this week and am thrilled with your undertaking. Although I had read the National Geographic and viewed the NOVA special several times, I learned so much about the art world and the enormous and diligent effort you and your colleagues have invested in bringing La Bella Principessa to her rightful place for the world to take great pleasure in. As a surprise to me, my main take away (beyond the compelling detective and scientific tale) was the enhanced love of beauty and genius that you share – deepening my thoughts about the paintings, drawings and sculpture I love – and trying to understand what it is that draws me to certain works and not others. I want to spend more time with the special works that I love - bravo to you both. This work has many gifts to share with those who aspire to seek and enjoy what is truly beautiful

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  • Posted February 17, 2012

    Stunning

    A riveting trip starting in New York City, then to Paris, and on to fascinating European cities to prove "who did it". Who created this breathtaking portrait os a young girl on the cusp of womanhood? The answer,of course,is Leonardo Da Vinci. The answer which was known always by the author of the book ,Peter Silverman and his wife Kathy. The story is not just of a $19,000 find that becomes a $100,000,000 trasure, but of returning a Master work to it's rightful place on the world stage for all to adore.

    This story enthralls the reader to such a degree, that one doesn't even realize how much knowledge of art and the art world is gained.

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  • Posted February 13, 2012

    Amazing true story and insight into the old masters are world

    This extraordinary true story regarding a lost chalk by Leonardo is more entertaining and informational than the Da Vinci Code. It opened up the background of the elite old masters experts and the operation of the auction houses. This book is a scholarly and unique journey of an art expert who is passionate and honest in his open tale of how he came upon an undiscovered treasurer. He brings us into his personal life and difficult journey in acquiring the academic and scientific art world's approval. The effort in obtaining the authenticity of this lost Leonardo masterpiece is a once in a life time event. Be aware and prepared to lose a night's sleep in reading this book.

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