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A furor over whether UCSD's Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology should be boring holes in a priceless Giorgio Vasari fresco in search of a Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece thought by some to be underneath is shaking the Florentine art world and has caused Italian prosecutors to open an investigation.

"Our constitution guarantees the protection of Italy’s cultural heritage, and now it will be up to the law to determine whether damage has been done here,” Alessandra Mottola Molfino, president of the heritage conservancy Italia Nostra, tells the New York Times.

She alleges that the boring is more for publicity than scholarship, saying, "We’ve grown weary of using art history as an event or a marketing opportunity."

"It’s like a scratch-and-win lottery ticket,” adds Tomaso Montanari, a professor at the University of Naples.

Not so, Alexander Moen, vice president for mission programs at the National Geographic Society, a partner in the project, told the paper. "It’s not like we indiscriminately made holes on Vasari’s frescoes,” he said.

“We are confident in the approach that was taken, which was deliberate and not decided on alone but with the critical agencies that are stakeholders.”

According to the Times:

"Maurizio Seracini, an engineer and director of the interdisciplinary center in San Diego, had received approval from city and state art authorities for his examination, and was working with restorers from the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, one of the most respected restoration institutions in Italy."

Seracini is on the faculty of UCSD's Jacobs engineering school, endowed and named after Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, who is currently having his own issues with preservationists over his parking plan for Balboa Park.

The Huffington Post has posted a video about the Florentine dust-up.

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