Gift of the Magi

December 7, 2006


The District has received an extraordinary gift this holiday season. Leonardo da Vinci's preparatory drawing for his painting "Adoration of the Magi" is on view outside of Italy for the first time. The Uffizi Gallery only allowed the drawing to be displayed in America for two days.
    So those who can't get to the Library of Congress today and tomorrow will have to make a trip to Florence to see this incredible work. Finmeccanica, the Rome-based aerospace and defense company, is sponsoring the display, on view today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Northwest Pavilion of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. SE.
     "It was a gift from God," Stephen Bryen, president of Finmeccanica's American headquarters, says, adding that he never expected the Uffizi to allow the drawing to leave Italy. The da Vinci work also has been in the news, of late, for another reason. Technology has enabled experts to discover what's beneath the painted layers of the masterpiece, on display at the Uffizi since 1670. Maurizio Seracini, an internationally recognized art expert at the University of California at San Diego, has concluded that the painting was probably finished by another artist decades after da Vinci abandoned it.
    The 1481 drawing on light brown paper is only about 6.4 by 11.4 inches, and it's astonishing how much da Vinci managed to fit into such a small space. The artist-scientist created a perspective grid on which he drew the outlines of a building, then included scenes featuring humans and animals.
    During its brief stay at the Library of Congress, two television screens will guide visitors through the new finds and explain how the drawing was reproduced on a much larger scale as a painting. But you won't see the Virgin Mary holding her newborn son, as the drawing is just the concept for the highly detailed background.
    By Kelly Jane Torrance
    

    

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