Flora Reveals All

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

Bought in 1909 by Wilhelm von Bode, as a sculpture by Leonardo da Vinci, for the Kaiser Fredrich Museum in Berlin, it did not take long for Bode’s bargain purchase to unravel.

In 1910 it was revealed that it was the work of Richard Cockle Lucas, a 19th C English sculptor,

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.

“It is machination, it is deception,” said the Director General of the Berlin Royal Museums in his defence when criticized for buying a fake.

After one hundred years and numerous controversies, a group of scientists led by a CNRS (Chemistry Research Institute of Paris) researcher 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 Scientific Reports, show how 14C dating can be applied to unusual material

Categories: Science

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