Photographer turns to Kickstarter to fund search for lost Leonardo Da Vinci fresco

by Nicole Martinelli
Oct 30, 2018 in Multimedia Journalism

Photographer Dave Yoder is on a mission to find a hidden fresco by Leonardo Da Vinci in Florence, Italy.

He's using crowdsourced online service Kickstarter to help pay for non-invasive technology to explore Palazzo Vecchio in the hopes of finding it.

Yoder's isn't the first journalism quest to be funded on Kickstarter, which has already sent journalists to Afghanistan and funded graphic novels by journalists. But in addition to being probably the one with the highest stakes -- others topped out at $25,000 -- it's also the only one that reads like a Dan Brown novel.

Da Vinci's masterpiece TheBattle of Anghiari is thought to lie between the walls of the city's seat of government, where artist Giorgio Vasari was ordered to fresco over it in 1563, but reportedly didn't have the heart. _(Full disclosure: Yoder is a friend of mine, and I've also reported on the search for the lost Leonardo.)_

Yoder, a U.S. native based in Milan who frequently works for publications including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, is under contract with the National Geographic Society which has funded the quest.

Like a lot of things in Italy, however, the project isn't that straightforward. After much deliberation, it seems that the only way to "see" what's underneath Vasari's fresco without ruining those ancient palazzo walls is a gamma camera "straight out of the science fiction movies," Yoder says. The camera, developed by physicist Dr. Robert Smither, can recognize the signatures from pigment samples. (DaVinci kept such meticulous notes that researchers can arrive at the composition of paints he used.)

To date, Yoder has 36 backers and another 53 days to go to reach the full amount of $266,500 to fund the gamma ray camera technology. Pledges can be as low as $1, higher pledges will be eligible for signed prints of the project.

"Of course, there are no guarantees the painting is there," Yoder notes. "This is a journey of exploration, an expedition 12 centimeters into the heart of Florence—and like any adventure, there is uncertainty..I think Leonardo would have approved."

The Kickstarter page is here; you can view some of Yoder's stunning pics from the project to date on his website.

To donate or for more information, check out Kickstarter.