Researchers say a self-portrait by the legendary Italian painter and architect, Leonardo da Vinci, kept in a vault in the city of Turin, is in poor condition and probably beyond repair.
The invaluable drawing which depicts the Italian Renaissance artist in his 60s was exposed to sunlight after being framed for an exhibition in 1929.
The exposure has caused the artwork to develop red blotches, stains and fungi, which have caused its deterioration to the point that any attempt to restore the painting may destroy the masterpiece.
“I think we need to think very hard before we do anything to this very familiar face,” said Jane Roberts, Royal Librarian and Curator of the Print Room at Windsor Castle.
The Royal Library of Turin, which serves as a restoration institute, and scientists are still deliberating to reach a decision on whether to attempt the restoration.
Done with red chalk on paper, the small drawing was shown in a rare exhibition on 2011 as part of celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.
This is while experts say from now on the masterpiece will be put on display for short periods of time and with a limited number of visitors.