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Fingerprint Tech IDs Leonardo da Vinci

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The ghost of a fingerprint in the top left corner of an obscure portrait appears to have confirmed an extraordinary art discovery: an unrecognized painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal-based forensic art expert, found the fingerprint while examining images captured by the revolutionary multispectral camera from the Lumière Technology company, Antiques Trade Gazette reports today.

Mr Biro has pioneered the use of fingerprint technology to help to resolve art authentication disputes. Multispectral analysis reveals each layer of colour, and enables the pigment mixtures of each pixel to be identified without taking physical samples. The fingerprint corresponds to the tip of the index or middle finger, and is “highly comparable” to one on Leonardo’s St Jerome in the Vatican. Importantly, St Jerome is an early work from a time when Leonardo was not known to have employed assistants, making it likely that it is his fingerprint.

The 13 x 9in picture in chalk, pen and ink appeared at auction at Christie’s, New York, in 1998, catalogued as “German school, early 19th century.” It sold for $19,000. Now a growing number of leading art experts agree that it is almost certainly by Leonardo da Vinci and worth about $157 million.

Carbon dating and infra-red analysis of the artist’s technique are consistent with such a conclusion, but the most compelling evidence is that fragment of a fingerprint.

Carbon-14 analysis of the vellum gave a date range of 1440-1650. Infra-red analysis revealed stylistic parallels to Leonardo’s other works, including a palm print in the chalk on the sitter’s neck "consistent ... to Leonardo’s use of his hands in creating texture and shading," according to Mr Biro.

Read more about this amazing discovery at the Times Online.