Leonardo in San Francisco

da vinci disappearing?A new infograph on a recent Applied Physics Letters (APL) paper about a Leonardo da Vinci drawing debuts at AIP Publishing's booth at the American Chemical Society meeting this week in San Francisco. Featuring an iconic image thought to be the face of the great artist himself, the infograph asks the same question the authors of the APL paper set out to answer: Is his face disappearing? 

Centuries of poor storage conditions have severely degraded this masterpiece, which was drawn during the early 1500s and is widely believed to be a self-portrait. Chromophores, light-absorbing molecules formed by the oxidation of cellulose fibers, have caused the "yellowing" of the portrait’s paper. Researchers affiliated with the European Theoretical Spectroscopy Facility, Università di Roma Tor Vergata, Istituto di Struttura della Materia, Istituto Centrale per il Restauro e la Conservazione del Patrimonio Archivistico e Librario, Jagiellonian University, and Istituto dei Sistemi Complessi in Italy and Poland combined reflectance spectroscopy and quantum-mechanical simulations to isolate the absorption spectrum of chromophores in cellulose, allowing them to quantify the rate of chromophore formation in this work. This approach may help in the conservation of other ancient documents and works of art as well. Read more about this work in the journal highlight prepared by the AIP Media Services team.