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Leonardo's "Adoration of the Magi" now cleaner, brighter

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/27/2017 By FRANCESCO FEDELI and NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press
Uffizi museum manager Erik Smith gestures as Leonardo da Vinci’s "Adoration of the Three Wise Men" is returned to the public after 6 years of study and restoration, in Florence, Italy, Monday, March 27, 2017. Painted in 1481, it is one of the most important works of the early Leonardo. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP) © The Associated Press Uffizi museum manager Erik Smith gestures as Leonardo da Vinci’s "Adoration of the Three Wise Men" is returned to the public after 6 years of study and restoration, in Florence, Italy, Monday, March 27, 2017. Painted in 1481, it is one of the most important works of the early Leonardo. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP)

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Leonardo da Vinci's unfinished masterpiece "Adoration of the Magi" has emerged from a six-year restoration cleaner, brighter and with a depth that hasn't been seen for centuries.

A visitor takes pictures of Leonardo da Vinci’s "Adoration of the Three Wise Men", returned to the public of the Uffizi museum after 6 years of study and restoration, in Florence, Italy, Monday, March 27, 2017. Painted in 1481, it is one of the most important works of the early Leonardo. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP) © The Associated Press A visitor takes pictures of Leonardo da Vinci’s "Adoration of the Three Wise Men", returned to the public of the Uffizi museum after 6 years of study and restoration, in Florence, Italy, Monday, March 27, 2017. Painted in 1481, it is one of the most important works of the early Leonardo. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP)

Officials at Florence's Uffizi Gallery unveiled the restored work at a ceremony Monday that will kick off a special exhibit running through September pitting Leonardo's work alongside the "Adoration" of Filippo Lippi.

Visitors take pictures of Leonardo da Vinci’s "Adoration of the Three Wise Men", returned to the public of the Uffizi museum after 6 years of study and restoration, in Florence, Italy, Monday, March 27, 2017. Painted in 1481, it is one of the most important works of the early Leonardo. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP) © The Associated Press Visitors take pictures of Leonardo da Vinci’s "Adoration of the Three Wise Men", returned to the public of the Uffizi museum after 6 years of study and restoration, in Florence, Italy, Monday, March 27, 2017. Painted in 1481, it is one of the most important works of the early Leonardo. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP)

"This is a spectacular recovery of this most important painting by Leonardo," said Uffizi director Eike Shmidt. While Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" and "The Last Supper" are perhaps better appreciated, the Adoration "always was the most mysterious work as well because it was covered with dark layers of dirt, of paint and so on."

Visitors take pictures of Leonardo da Vinci’s "Adoration of the Three Wise Men", returned to the public of the Uffizi museum after 6 years of study and restoration, in Florence, Italy, Monday, March 27, 2017. Painted in 1481, it is one of the most important works of the early Leonardo. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP) © The Associated Press Visitors take pictures of Leonardo da Vinci’s "Adoration of the Three Wise Men", returned to the public of the Uffizi museum after 6 years of study and restoration, in Florence, Italy, Monday, March 27, 2017. Painted in 1481, it is one of the most important works of the early Leonardo. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP)

Leonardo painted the large, nearly square oil on wood between 1481 and 1482 but left it unfinished after leaving Florence for Milan. It had been commissioned by Augustinian monks for the San Donato a Scopeto church but ultimately ended up in the Medici collection.

The restoration was carried out by a team at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, a research and conservation institute of the Italian Culture Ministry.

The institute's director, Marco Ciatti, said non-original materials had altered the work's color scheme, its light and shadows, reducing its depth perception. In addition, there were two large cracks in the wooden planks that could have caused damage to the works.

Experts said the restoration uncovered newfound lucidity and profundity in the work, with figures that had previously been hidden now apparent and a "liveliness" of action uncovered.

"This is an extremely cinematographic painting, in fact, and has become such thanks to the cleaning," said Schmidt. "With this painting, we have a really new look into Leonardo da Vinci's mind."

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Winfield reported from Rome.

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