After three years of scientific and artistic investigations, Professor Ernesto Solari, an art historian and expert on Da Vinci, along with Ivana Rosa Bonfantino, a handwriting expert, announced that the “The Archangel Gabriel” could be the first known work produced by Da Vinci.
The hardly visible signature “Da Vinci Lionardo” is located in the lip. It is signed 1471, which would have been when Leonardo Da Vinci was 18 years old.
The painting, which is actually a glazed tile, was located when the descendants of the aristocratic Fenice family of Ravello were cleaning out their house. The tile had been in the family for 500 years. Although they did know it was an early Da Vinci work of art, they called art experts because it did appear to be quite a masterpiece.
To verify its authenticity the experts analyzed the painting style and signature to other Da Vinci works of art. Of course, Da Vinci’s signature evolved over time but the match was similar to confirm that indeed the glazed tile is the earliest known work by Leonardo Da Vinci.
The glazed tile named “The Archangel Gabriel” an eight-inch by eight-inch tile featuring a figure styled as the Archangel Gabriel, thus its name.
Not all Leonardo Da Vinci agree, however. Oxford professor Martin Kemp, a Da Vinci scholar, quickly attacked the work as inauthentic saying to the Times of London “One rule of thumb is that if a work is signed by Leonardo it’s not by him.”
Nevertheless the art market will ultimately decide its authenticity, such as it did with Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which was also mired in debate over its authenticity and condition. It ultimately became the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction when it went for $450 million at Christie’s in November 2017.