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Rooms may have been da Vinci’s workshops

Marina Sapia Associated Press

FLORENCE, Italy – A convent’s upstairs rooms decorated with fading frescoes of birds in flight may have been used as a workshop by Leonardo da Vinci and his pupils, a researcher said Friday.

The rooms, on the upper floors of a building shared by Florence’s Institute of Military Geography and the Santissima Annunziata Monastery, contain frescoes that could be attributable to Leonardo’s school, said Alessandro Vezzosi, director of a Leonardo museum near Florence.

Leonardo might have conceived or completed an early version of the “Mona Lisa” in the workshop, since the family of the probable subject of the painting, Lisa Gherardini, had links to the site, said Vezzosi.

Also in the rooms, which are not open to the public, is an outline of a kneeling angel similar to Leonardo’s “Annunciation” that hangs in Florence’s Uffizi museum.

Although there is still uncertainty about who painted the frescoes on the walls, “these studies might be able to tell us more about the environment in which Leonardo lived,” said Vezzosi, curator of a recent exhibition on Leonardo who helped present the results of the research.

Leonardo arrived in Florence in 1500 and likely stayed in the rooms between 1500-03, he said. According to Renaissance art historian Giorgio Vasari, Leonardo was taken in at the convent around that time, with it paying expenses for him and his assistants.

The key may be the frescoes, which had not been studied carefully before.

“For the first time in this case we see birds which are absolutely dynamic, animals which are absolutely vivid and remind us of the study done by Leonardo of birds in flight,” said researcher Roberto Manescalchi.

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