Leonardo da Vinci definitely did not sculpt the Flora bust

The Flora Wax Bust Inventory n° 5951, Skulpturensammlung (SBM), Museum für Byzan

The Flora Wax Bust Inventory n° 5951, Skulpturensammlung (SBM), Museum für Byzantinische Kunst (SBM), Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (SMB) - Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK) © SMB-SPK

"It is machination, it is deception," said the Director General of the Berlin Royal Museums in his defence when criticized for buying a fake. Wilhelm Bode did not budge an inch: the sculpture he acquired in 1909 was an as yet unknown production of the great Renaissance master, Leonardo da Vinci. After one hundred years and numerous controversies, a group of scientists led by a CNRS researcher 1 has just proven him wrong once and for all. The Flora wax bust, conserved at the Bode Museum in Berlin, recently underwent radiocarbon (14C) dating, which provided both a precise date and an incontrovertible result: it was made in the nineteenth century, nearly 300 years after da Vinci’s death. As the sculpture was made primarily from spermaceti, a kind of wax extracted from whales, the researchers had to develop a new calibration method to accurately date the work of art. Their results, which were published on 15 April 2021 in , show how 14C dating can be applied to unusual materials.

  • 1. The researchers involved work at the Chemistry Research Institute of Paris (CNRS/Chimie ParisTech), the Centre for Research and Restoration of Museums of France (Ministry of Culture), and the Carbon-14 Measurement Laboratory (CEA/CNRS/IRD/IRSN/Ministry of Culture), a national platform managed by the Laboratory for Sciences of Climate and Environment (CNRS/CEA/Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines).

New results with regard to the Flora bust controversy: radiocarbon dating suggests nineteenth century origin. Ina Reiche, Lucile Beck and Ingrid Caffy. , 15 April 2021. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-85505-x


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