The Battle of Anghiari – A mysterious conversation English class

The Battle of Anghiari
Upper Intermediate + : conversation and comprehension class

Vocab building: general, historic and art.
Skills: paraphrasing & general context comprehension.
Writing exercise: using new vocabulary in different contexts
Discussion: speaking practice.
Duration: 90 minutes
Source: National Geographic (text & Video)


The Battle of Anghiari – The ultimate DaVinci mystery


1. Do you know any of the mysteries surroundings Da Vinci?
2. Did you hear about the painting “Salvador Santi” discovered and restored recently and currently on exhibition at the National Gallery of London?
3. Do you like the National Geographic and how often would you read it?


“The Battle of Anghiari” by Peter Paul Rubens, copy after Leonardo’s ‘Battle of Anghiari’, c. 1604.

The Battle of Anghiari (1505) is a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci at times referred to as “The Lost Leonardo”, which some commentators believe to be still hidden beneath later frescoes in the Hall of Five Hundred (Salone dei Cinquecento) in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. Its central scene depicted three men riding raging war-horses engaged in a battle for possession of a standard.


Words & Phrases:

frescoes, depicted, raging, a standard, worthy, accomplishment, a tiny banner,

intact, a signpost, enlarged, an admirer, pigments

non-invasive process poses no threat, shock waves


It is a mystery worthy of a detective novel. A mural by Leonardo da Vinci, rumoured to have been his greatest artistic accomplishment, lost centuries ago. Another mural, painted over the first, in response to changing political alliances. A present day “art diagnostician” who has been searching for the lost mural for 30 years. A clue hidden in the later mural: a tiny banner reads “Cerca Trova,” or “seek and ye shall find.” Could it be that the “Lost Leonardo” is not really lost but lies, still intact, under this signpost?

“The Battle of Anghiari” was painted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1505 to commemorate the 1440 battle on the plain of Anghiari between Milan and the Italian League led by the Republic of Florence. The Florentines emerged from the conflict as the most important power in central Italy, re-establishing Papal powers and Italian politics for years to come. In 1503, da Vinci was commissioned by Gonfaloniere Piero Soderini to paint the mural in the Hall of the Five Hundred of the Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of government in Florence.

Da Vinci used the commission as an opportunity to experiment with new mural techniques, which did not meet with the results he hoped, but nonetheless this masterpiece was later called “the school of the world.” In the mid-16th century the hall was enlarged and completely remodeled, and Giorgio Vasari, himself an admirer of da Vinci’s work, painted six new murals over the east and west walls. “The Battle of Anghiari” was assumed to have been destroyed in the process.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Dr. Maurizio Seracini, National Geographic Fellow and a cultural heritage engineer and founder of the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology (CISA3), at the University of California, San Diego, is leading this effort to find the “Lost Leonardo.” One of the world’s leading experts in the field of art diagnostics, Seracini began searching for the mural more than 30 years ago. He felt that Vasari left the small banner reading “Cerca Trova” as a clue for future generations. He conducted laser, thermal, and radar scans of the hall, which confirmed that there is an air gap present between the brick wall on which Vasari painted his mural and another wall behind it—suggesting that Vasari may have preserved da Vinci’s masterpiece by building a wall in front of it.

Now, the team is developing their most sophisticated tool yet, a gamma ray camera that they hope will be able to generate an image of the painting. Since the pigments da Vinci used were documented, the team  was able to determined the gamma-ray signatures of the metals in the paints he used, and will use that information to probe past the outer layers of brick and plaster to map whatever remains of the image. The non-invasive process poses no threat to the Vasari frescos. If these scans reveal what is anticipated, the proof of the painting’s existence will send shock waves through the world of art and renaissance history.



Do you believe the fresco is actually there?

Dealing with Italian bureaucracy must be difficult?

This could make an excellent tourist destination?



Please use the following vocab in the sentences below:

frescoes, depicted, raging, worthy, accomplishment, a tiny banner,

intact, a signpost, enlarged, an admirer , pigments, shock waves

  1. I have been searching the internet for ________________ to match with a Christmas present for my parents.
  2. Last night’s documentary __________ the difficult reality of life in Africa.
  3. Robert DeNiro won an Oscar for his performance in _________ Bull.
  4. When you visit the west of Ireland expect to get lost 5 times a day because there are no proper ______________ .
  5. I think that Montse has a secret ___________ .
  6. Could you ___________ the photo on the screen, I’d like to see the detail.
  7. They believe that the structure of the building is ___________
  8. News reports say that the ______________ of the earthquake could be felt 100 miles away.
  9. Walking the Camino de Santiago was a _________ and satisfying ________________ .


National Geographic Video used in the Kickstarter project:




(Kickstarter is a crown-funding website where contributors and donators help to realise projects)


The only words in any of the paintings are “Cerca Trova”, how significant is this? Is this just coincidence ?

What other clues exist?








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Justin Donlon

English Teacher & Content Developer Over 15 years of experience in engaging educational content

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