One of the two reasons for choosing the title of the originating post, “Leonardo’s Painting – A Fatal Flaw ?? "
was to focus attention on the accumulation of information and subsequent interpretations all claiming to be based upon Leonardo’s painting (the other reason is about the Passover in relation to his painting - that post still intended but not prepared).
Anxious to provide examples showing all manner of “secrets revealed”, proponents tout how Leonardo deliberately painted in “clues” as to who/what the “Holy Grail” was/is using techniques known only to him but which are now knowable to us compliments of modern technology.
As everyone knows, “The Da Vinci Code” started a phenomenon that has generated extraordinary levels of interest. Building upon Dan Brown’s fictional platform, more books, new websites, lectures, tours, have arrived in the marketplace many positioning themselves (imputing by no statement to the contrary) that they are not
fiction. It almost seems there are more proponents explaining what has been discovered from their study of Leonardo’s painting than there are detractors explaining why they are wrong.
So, what about those claiming that “secrets” were hidden by Leonardo utilizing painting techniques so advanced (layers hidden below layers, visual allusions created with plays on perspective and light, even incorporating “mirror-painting” to conceal hidden figures of such things as Templar Knights) that such images are discernable in our day thanks to great sleuthing and advanced technologies? Can such claims actually be supported by Leonardo’s painting as it was originally painted
or for that matter, as it exists today?
What about those claiming that Leonardo painted Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ wife to his right instead of the youngest disciple/apostle, John? Does the figure exhibit a “bosom”, pregnant, accompanied by a “V” shaped space symbolizing yet another “clue”, the “Sacred Feminine”, a woman’s womb as identified by Teabing in Dan Brown’s novel? Again this writer asks, “Can such claims actually be supported by Leonardo’s painting as it was originally painted”
or as it exists today?
Can the painting of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci on its own merits according to what we have today
be used to prove that he used techniques known only to him to leave behind “secrets” and “clues” about “who” and/or “what” so-called The Holy Grail was and is?
Can we know from the painting as it exists today
if Leonardo intentionally inserted Mary Magdalene into the painting as Jesus’ wife to his right instead of the youngest apostle, John?
To each of the preceding interogatories, the answer is “No”
. Subsequent paragraphs will explain.
Even though as previously noted Dan Brown’s novel is positioned as “fiction”, assurances are now advanced by many as truth. Leonardo, they contend, meant
for those of another day to recognize that the “Holy Grail” is a woman’s womb. This, they say, is represented by the ancient symbol for the “Sacred Feminine”, a “V” shaped space that Leonardo took pains to create between Jesus and the figure to his right.
For us in this forum exchanging viewpoints, what basis can be provided by this writer to influence others to consider that such conclusions derived from “studies” of Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” are in fact “flawed” both as to reasoning and evidentiary outcomes? Is such a basis for disbelief even possible to present?
This writer hopes that the following information will demonstrate once and for all that the many presentations listed above (and many more unspecified) assuring validation from Leonardo’s “Last Supper” as we see it today
are not only “flawed” but rendered “impossible” to have achieved based upon the painting itself.
So, back to all the books, websites and other sources of commentary detailing the mysteries now being revealed about Leonardo’s “Last Supper”. Once again the question must be asked, “Can any of them be valid given the historical travails of the painting through the centuries?”
It might be helpful to those who still “aren’t sure” that some
foundation doesn’t exist for believing in such claims, to consider the history of the painting’s “endurance” through the intervening centuries up to our time. Is what we see today “Leonardo’s”… or only the attempts by others pursuant to what they think
he painted, imposing with less skill their paint applied over the vague shadows remaining of his work?
Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574), was a painter, an architect, and known for his biographical work on famous persons. As Leonardo Da Vinci’s biographer, Vasari described the painting of The Last Supper as already “ruined”
and in such state of decomposition that the figures in the painting were "unrecognizable"
. That is sixty years (+/-) after Leonardo finished it. If the painting had become [color:#CC0000][b]”unrecognizable” by 1556, how many layers, converging perspectives, and planes of light, male/female facial characteristics, skin tones, secretive messages painted into the composition, etc., done by Leonardo’s own hand were left to explore electronically and otherwise by the dawn of the new millennium?
Nothing that would support all the claims now being made in the painting’s behalf!
A first restoration was attempted in 1726
which endured poorly. Another attempt was begun in 1770
wherein the work of 1726 was stripped off
but restoration was halted
and remained in an unfinished state for a very long time.
the French used the building as an armory. Soldiers are recorded as throwing stones at the painting and scratching out the eyes of the figures. The building was also used as a prison wherein no catalogue of damage by prisoners was kept.
, an attempt was made to remove
the section of the wall upon which Leonardo had painted. The center section
was severely damaged, apparently at or near the location of the celebrated “V” space appearing between Jesus and the figure to his right. If true (and historically it is) was it restored to represent (Teabing's description of it in Brown's novel as the “Holy Grail”) what Leonardo had originally painted it to be or did he never paint the space intending such significance at all? The project to remove the wall and the painting was abandoned. How was it repaired? The wall pieces were reinserted and mortared but the wall surface
, the painting pieces that had been removed, were re-affixed with glue
Next, another cycle of study and poorly executed restoration came and went between 1901
only to be followed by more years of decline so that by the late 1970’s
, the painting was so badly deteriorated that it was again
considered to be “unrecognizable”
What happened next? You guessed it! Another cycle of restoration was commenced and after more re-painting, stabilization techniques for the wall-surface, and the installation of climate control devices were completed the restored (or would re-created by other lesser skilled hands than Leonardo's who also didn't know his "secrets"
be more accurate) painting of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper is now available for limited viewing.
Given the history of the painting’s “endurance”, given that whatever Leonardo Da Vinci’s own hand painted long ago faded to the state of being “unrecognizable”
multiple times, given the record of damages and botched repairs on detail that could no longer be recognized, who can allow themselves to be carried away by all the fanciful tales spun by Dan Brown and others?
How many contributing to this and other such forums, proclaim Leonardo’s painting has all sorts of secrets to tell us, secrets only now being revealed through sophisticated scanning techniques reaching down through the layers revealing hidden images?
Claims of Leonardo’s fabled secretive techniques utilizing planes of refracting light, converging perspectives, mirror-painting, image-messaging, and many more known-only-to-him processes revealing secrets today, is simply not possible given that his experimental paint long ago faded or was striped away by early restorers hundreds of years past according to the historical record.
Claims regarding his secret painting techniques no longer remain to be explored, x-rayed, 3-D scanned, or otherwise technologically “explored”. Even if images had
emerged during such modern day high-tech wizardry (which they couldn't have as detailed previously), it would be impossible to distinguish between the work of Leonardo versus painting over or in replacement of his work by Gellotti, Mazza, Barezzi, Cavenaghi, Silvestri, Pelliccioli, or Barcilon
spread as it was over centuries
interspersed with repeated acts of vandalism from one source or another, environmental deterioration, and botched attempts at restoration.
So the next time you are regaled with a tale about some new discovery announcing what new-age technology has revealed about Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of “The Last Supper”, when you find yourself wondering if Da Vinci really painted the figure to Jesus’ right to be Mary Magdalene, that he painted a "her" instead of an effeminate Apostle John as he did elsewhere (pursuant to The Florentine School's techniques), that the figure was pregnant
and later moved to France to bear Jesus’ child, or the next time you see that Templar Knight at the far end of the table supposedly hidden there by Leonardo for future revelation but discernable today thanks to great sleuthing and modern electronics (but more likely thanks to Adobe Photoshop)…think again