LEONARDO da Vinci’s first painting may have been unearthed by eagle-eyed sleuths who claim to have found a fascinating detail unnoticed for 600 years.
Using infrared analysis, Italian experts claim to have found the words “da Vinci Leonardo 1471” written on the portrait of the Archangel Gabriel.
Da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, meaning the Renaissance genius would have been around 18 if the painting is his.
It was painted on a majolica glazed tile, a popular art form in Europe in the 15th Century, according to the Telegraph.
The signature itself was too small to make out without being magnified and apparently became smudged when the clay was baked.
Art historian Professor Ernesto Solari, who announced the discovery in Rome, said: “The protocol of the time was not to sign majolicas like this.
“Perhaps that is why it is so small… Any larger and it would have spoilt the aesthetic of the painting.”
Solari, who spent three years analysing the piece, said they also found the initials LDV inscribed on the border.
He added: “We have plenty of works produced by Leonardo in his later years, such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.
“But this provides an insight into the artist as a very young man.”
The painting is owned by an aristocratic family, from the Italian town of Ravello, who were gifted it by the Duchess of Amalfi in 1499.
And the signature was scrutinised by handwriting expert Ivana Rosa Bonfantino who said it was a “very close” match.
Bonfantino, who has analysed countless da Vinci autographs, said the smaller number one in 1471 was reminiscent of the artist.
She added: “My conclusion is that the writing on the face of the Archangel was done by a young Leonardo.”