A man who often comes up in grail studies and Priory of Sion lore is my favorite human of all time. Here's a blog of my own opinions of his most popular work.
The Secret of Leonardo and the Mona Lisa
When we hear the word renaissance man, a true polymath, a jack of all trades, the soul of an age, we almost all think of the same man: Leonardo da Vinci. It seems we are as fascinated with the man as we are with his paintings. The most famous of all his paintings, the Mona Lisa, has captured our attention with nearly obsessive levels for hundreds of years. He painted many famous works and contributed to several aspects of our modern life during the renaissance period and yet the Mona Lisa remains his most famous work if not the most famous piece of art ever created. Those who have studied deeper into the mans life and into the art world, have found secrets laced throughout the painting. The Mona Lisa needs more academic study than it has been been able to get, in order to see the totality of Leonardo's life and interests hidden in the painting and most notably the sitter. Lifestyle interests such as mathematics, mysticism, sexuality, geography, and invention.
As most of us with at least a high school education know, Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, sculptor, inventor, writer, military engineer, and draftsman, who dabbled heavily in sciences like anatomy and mathematics. Modern science methods and studies, are now bringing to light, that Leonardo used many of these abilities to hide more than meets the human eye in his famous painting. With the new studies, we can see a number of seemingly unconnected discoveries littered throughout the painting. However, once we know a bit about Leonardo's mysterious life, we can begin to form an autobiographical web of clues and moments in the artists life and his vast array of interests.
The popular theory lately, is that The Mona Lisa is Leonardo's mother. Previously it had been Lisa del Giocondo and what most scholars still agree on. The reason for the mother theory comes from advanced new research scanning suggesting "Mona Lisa" was originally 40 years older than she
appears today. “According to research historian Graeme Cameron, these groundbreaking findings may prove the portrait cannot be of the 24-year-old Lisa del Giocondo but is instead almost certainly Leonardo's 63-year-old mother Caterina, whom Leonardo painted earlier “in Milan around 1493 and later 'rejuvenated.” This could explain why he kept the painting closely with him until his death, and why his recorded portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, which he painted around 1503 in Florence, is another lost painting and not that at the Louvre.” (PR Newswire) Although a mildly credible theory, there are stronger ones about the sitter.
Recent allegations of his mother being a Chinese or Arab slave are gaining popularity but seem unlikely due to what we know historically. His father held a respectable rank in society and Encyclopedia Britannica author states that, “Leonardo’s parents were unmarried at the time of his birth. His father, Ser Piero, was a Florentine notary and landlord, and his mother, Caterina, was a young peasant woman who shortly thereafter married an artisan. Leonardo grew up on his father’s family’s estate, where he was treated as a “legitimate” son and received the usual elementary education of that day: reading, writing, and arithmetic.” (Heydenreich) The identity of the sitter is only one puzzle piece in a vast web of hidden genius in the famous painting. Later on we will see who the sitter most likely is.
“Non mi legga chi non e matematico.” “Let no one read me who is not a mathematician.” -Leonardo da Vinci.
One of the things researchers have uncovered that Leonardo hid within the Mona Lisa was his use of mathematics. At his time, only scholars, mathematicians and other Renaissance artists had concepts of the mathematical principles he used to convey in his artworks. What lies hidden in the painting wasn't recognizable to the common passerby and in many ways still isn't today. During the renaissance, there was a revival of Greek ideals in fields of art, science, and philosophy. It was a time of intellect and freedom from the religious dark ages.
Famous Greek mathematicians like Euclid and Pythagoras studied a mathematical phenomenon
that occurred frequently in nature called the Golden Ratio or the Golden Mean. Artists like Leonardo used this ratio in their paintings to bring balance and perspective to please the eye of the viewer. It was considered divine, but more so in pagan like mysticism rather than the Catholic churches view. He famously used it to define all the fundamental proportions of his painting "The Last Supper," from the dimensions of the table at which Christ and the disciples sat to the proportions of the walls and windows in the background to achieve balance and beauty.
Leonardo does something very strange in the Mona Lisa. He confuses us by using the balance of the Golden Mean in the Mona Lisa's body, but then using incorrect perspective in the background. Both sides of The Mona Lisa have different horizon lines. Some may debate that he wasn't focused on perspective in the painting but rather the sitter and that the background is meaningless. Others argue that he may not have really have fully grasped perspective or found it to be important. However, Leonardo was very precise in everything he did as we have seen. Furthermore we can look to his journals and see he had a very good understanding of perspective. “There are three branches of perspective: first, the diminution of objects as they recede from the eye, known as Diminishing Perspective. Second, the way in which colors vary as they recede from the eye. Third, the explanation of how the objects in a picture ought to be less perfect and complete in proportion to their remoteness. The names are as follows: Linear Perspective, The Perspective of Color, The Perspective of Disappearance.” -Leonardo da Vinci. Later we will see why the perspectives do not match. He also hid precise proportions in the sitter.
In the Mona Lisa, the sitter's torso is proportioned in such a way that she is mathematically inscribed in a golden triangle with angles 72 degrees- 36 degrees- 72 degrees. Some may argue here that this is all a coincidence. Author, educator, and scientist Bulent Atalay offers a better perspective by stating “In the work of any other artist we would assume these manifestations to be coincidental. For
Leonardo who seamlessly integrated mathematics, science, and art, and spent his life unifying principles, perhaps not!” (Atalay).
Mathematics was a tool of natural divinity for Leonardo which can explain how he was able to make such an ethereal, spiritual painting, without the use of traditional biblical subjects. Math was a way for Leonardo to put his own obsessions into commissioned works unbeknownst to the buyers. Most people have overlooked mathematics influencing Leonardo instead seeing him only as a painter. The extent of his obsession with math can be seen in him returning to Florence in 1500. He did so in the company of his mathematics tutor, Fra’ Luca Pacioli. There are writings from several people including Fra’ Pietro da Novellara, who writes to Isabella d’Este earl in the 16th Century, with mention of a reason why Leonardo has no patience to paint because of his constant studies of geometry.
What very few people know, is that there is a second Mona Lisa hidden under the one we see today. Leonardo actually painted the Mona Lisa on top of another one! The original and the newly painted one fits in the shape of a triangle. Scholars who argue that the human body naturally falls in the shape of a triangle, a design pattern Leonardo has become known for, fail to see the vast complexities hidden in the Mona Lisa.
The original through X-Ray study shows a deeper golden ratio concept than the Mona Lisa we see today. Perhaps Leonardo was frightened his mathematical concepts would be too easily discovered. Alfonso Rubino a member of The Mona Lisa Foundation states, “In the case of the earlier ‘Mona Lisa’, the legs of the triangle are shown correctly placed in the lower corners, and the peak bisects the width of the painting at the top. Now, that ‘Golden Ratio’ diagram is applied. It nestles against the edge of the left column, and, coming across the top of her head, exactly meets the leg of the triangle. At the same time, the ‘spiral’ beautifully frames her face, with the rounded side on the right, and the vertical side on the left. Also, the ‘spiral’ winds from the tip of her nose, grazing the bottom of her chin, and all the way around to her right arm, from elbow to thumb.” (Rubino)
Rubino has also linked other geometrical attributes of the Mona Lisa to several of Leonardo's other famous works creating an even bigger picture if the reader wishes to study this further. Knowing that Leonardo is able to express his spiritual side in his paintings because his genius methods can only be recognized by others on his level leaves us wondering what else he may have hidden to describe his beliefs. The reoccurring number 72 may offer a small clue to the rumors of Leonardo's occult practices. Aside from the particular degree of 72 used within her golden mean positioning, we come across this number again in the painting. It has been discovered that Leonardo hid symbols and numbers in The Mona Lisa as well. The left pupil of The Mona Lisa contains the number 72. The number 72 is found in the Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism. One online science article quotes the head of Italy’s national committee for cultural heritage Silvano Vinceti: “On its own the number 7 is full of symbolic associations in the spirituality of many religions. The number 2 could be a reference to the duality of male and female.” (Vinceti)
Scholars have debated whether or not Leonardo was anti religious or if he was in mystical orders which could have cost him his life in Florence at the time. If he was, he would surely have had to express them in secret in his work. Ferrarese architect, Giacomo Andrea, who was Leonardo's friend and translated some Vitruvius’s work for Leonardo, was publicly beheaded. It was a reminder that scientific voice and public thought can be silenced easily. This would mean Leonardo would have to hide these principles in his work in order to spare his life. Still, Leonardo is seen pushing the envelope as much a he can at times without losing his life. Leonardo described his Vitruvian Man illustration as “The outstretched arms and legs of a man form a square and a circle: the square symbolizes the solid physical world and the circle the spiritual and eternal. Man bridges the gap between these two worlds.”-Leonardo Da Vinci, “The Magical Proportions of Man” Leonardo may have also hidden places of significance that he either lived in, visited, or had an important relationship in. While Leonardo takes careful time to create a divine balance within the sitters torso, he oddly shows an unbalanced background behind her as mentioned earlier. He also makes an unrealistic vantage point in a painting that normally uses techniques that create a photograph like effect. The paradox makes sense when we find out what the background really is. Leonardo had already painted a location called the Val di Chiana map. Oddly, It is found again hidden in the Mona Lisa, but not so easily seen without modern techniques. Using his mathematical and artistic genius, he was able to paint the background in such a way, that the location found in his map appears when the background is dis-joined and then juxtaposed.
Using a painstaking process that would garnish him no recognition in his day may seem odd unless one considers it could be a hidden message of the identity of the sitter or any other life circumstances relevant to the background location. One might argue that this is all what we choose to see based on our own bias opinions or a need for conspiracy. To that I'd ask them why would someone so well versed in these techniques, haphazardly sabotage them in error? Experts see it a far better way. Author Donato Pezzutto notes “Leonardo used perspective to create an illusion with the Mona Lisa. The viewer is certainly manipulated by the master, who fools us into the sense of depth created by the atmospherics of the landscape. Viewers accept the effect even though the rules of logic are stretched to a surrealistic breaking point; the horizons to left and right do not match, the waterways flow in a nonsensical manner, and the perspective of the background is different from that of the subject.”
With the hidden numbers we also now know that Leonardo hid letters in the painting as well. Along with the number 72 The left pupil contains the letters CE and B. The letters are so small we can't see them with our naked eye. Leonardo would have had to painstakingly use a single brush hair and magnifying glass to carefully hide these in the eye. Again, I stress the importance of considering the reasons someone would work so hard, to create something that no one in his time would see, if he
wasn't hiding it on purpose. The arguments that many of these items found in the paintings are coincidental starts to get a little thin at this point. Instead I invite the reader to hypothesize what events or people Leonardo may have been hiding in his beloved painting, riddled with symbols of his life. “While mentioned earlier scholars believe that the "Mona Lisa" is a painting of Lisa Gherardini, wife of merchant Francesco del Giocondo, Vinceti said “the S might refer to a woman in the Sforza dynasty that ruled Milan. Da Vinci spent time there between 1482-1499 and also 1506-1507, which might change the date of the current speculation on when the painting was started” (Vinceti)
We now know that there is an original painting beneath the painting we see today. Aside from it's mathematical properties, other theories can be pulled out from underneath. Lillian F. Feldmann Schwartz tells us that computer analysis gives us evidence to identify the model in the painting beneath the Mona Lisa. She goes on to say “Our results suggest the model who has perplexed so many scholars for so many years posed, not for the celebrated surface Mona Lisa itself, but for the second or hidden portrait and it's analysis: and a chronology which tells the story which led to the creation of this two faced masterpiece.” (Schwartz) The Mona Lisa on top of the original is strangely soft and almost can be seen as a wrapper or cover of the human underneath. She is almost lacking eyebrows and eyelashes, her hands look as though they have no bones, and the clothing is plain and timeless lacking jewelry and accessories. There is also no record of who the painting is of. Leonardo kept precise notes, descriptions, receipts, costs of materials, and fees. For The Mona Lisa there is nothing of the sort. Schwartz tells us after computer analysis, she sees a man beneath the Mona Lisa “casing”. One of the reasons for this is “while the "veil" painting technique would blur most of the male characteristics of a models face, one distinguishing mark is difficult to hide. The male skulls of sexually dimorphic hominoids typically exhibit supraorbital embellishments. This feature is most pronounced in the large boney masses which protrude from the brows of chimpanzees, gorillas, and many of the fossil skulls of human ancestors. While this feature is less pronounced in modern man, personal enquiries indicate that the supraorbital ridge is evident in at least 90 percent of the male skulls in our species and is almost totally lacking in females.” (Schwartz) Leonardo’s face in the painting exhibits this ridge. Interestingly, Leonardo’s self portrait exhibit this same ridge. It is entirely possible that the Mona Lisa is hiding Leonardo himself. Painting himself in drag would have been blasphemy so he would have to take extreme measures to conceal this in the painting.
Science hasn't been able to reveal these mysteries until recently which is why they may have gone under the radar in popular culture for so long. Author Phillip ball writes about how Philippe Walter and his colleagues at the Centre for Research and Restoration of French Museums uses a technique called X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy which can study rare artworks without harming them like classical methods of taking paint samples. In the strict religious times of the powerful Roman Catholic church Leonardo had to be secretive about everything he did although it seems like he seemed to get caught for rebelling occasionally. Philippe states “he used a variety of materials and techniques, including direct mixing, in the flesh tones. It also tallies with his reputed interest in chemistry, which seemingly provoked Pope Leo’s impatience at his tinkering and distilling. (Ball)
In addition to hiding methodical topics using mathematics, hidden numbers, and hidden letters, he also painted the picture in a way no renaissance artist had done before. The mystery of his techniques are just now, hundreds of years later, being discovered. It took 4 years to achieve the painting we see now and even then, it was never actually completed although Leonardo returned to it many times in his life. In his method of layering to create ultra real effects he would take incredible amounts of time achieving what otherwise looks straight forward to us. If someone has the patience to take years perfecting a single painting, then I argue they certainly have time to think about ingeniously hiding things in it. He would have needed a very precise technique to hide his own self portrait in a woman. The technique he was using and became known for was called “sfumato" and is derived from "fumo" (smoke, fume). "Sfumato" translated into English means soft, vague or blurred.
Leonardo took it even further into what's called a “turbulent structure” that changes in the painting when we squint our eyes at various levels. Diogo Queiros-Conde set up a number of scientific experiments using lighting techniques, camera lenses, and his own newly developed type of geometry called entropic skin geometry to discover this a well as a human skull under her left shoulder in the painting. In doing this Leonardo was able to completely hide a man's face within the face of the supposed female sitter. During his photographic approximation of the image he produced a masculine face which lends scientific credence to the drag theory.
There are theories that Leonardo was a closeted homosexual, made most notable from Sigmund Freud's writings on him. It is important to note here that in 1476 Leonardo and four other young men were charged with sodomy, a crime punishable by exile or even death. Leonardo was eventually acquitted. Florentine court records along with the painting hiding a man show that the homosexual theory may be very true. Another theory was that he was in a group called The Priory of Sion who carried on the secrets of the sacred feminine from suppressed by the Roman Catholic church. This theory was brought to the mainstream when Dan Brown published his best selling novel, The da Vinci Code and subsequent motion picture. The androgyny in the painting a well as the uneven horizon lines make this plausible.
In addition to finding the masculine face, Conde also found a skull beneath the left shoulder. “Through this entropic cascade, Mona Lisa appears as an allegory of the eternal cycle of life and death. I therefore looked for a sign in the painting that might characterize this symbolic idea. I advise the reader to pay attention to the luminous form just under Mona Lisa’s left shoulder.” (Diogo) Leonardo's rebelliousness against the strict catholic church continued with his dissection of cadavers. It was his extreme way of learning anatomy. Because of this, he was able to have a much deeper understanding of the human body outside of posing models. He used his understanding of the female reproductive anatomy in his other famous painting The Last Supper. In one scholarly journal Doctors and authors agree that “A few studies tried to interpret 'The Last Supper' at which the Holy Grail, in an upside down direction can probably symbolize Mary Magdalene's uterus. In the years 1487-1490 Leonardo completed 'The Last Supper' which combined with the 'Mona Lisa' magnified his reputation. To study his anatomy projects which for centuries were the most accurate and detailed.” (Dimitrakopoulos, et al.) From this, we can deduce that around this time Leonardo was already hiding various symbols and meanings in several of his paintings that seemingly had more straight forward meanings.
Another secret that has been recently found to be hidden in the Mona Lisa that contradicts the man in drag theory but offers equal importance to the study of the paintings hidden meanings, is that of a pregnant woman. As stated earlier Tradition holds that the "Mona Lisa" is a painting of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo. But new 3D scans show a fine, gauzy veil around Mona Lisa's shoulders, a garment women of the Italian Renaissance wore when expecting. Author Angela Donland states “As the painting aged, the veil darkened. Thick, dark varnish made it hard even to know what color her dress is. It has been described as black, brown or green. Fabric draped over Mona Lisa's shoulder has been interpreted as a shawl or a scarf. But infrared reflectography images tell a different story. The veil, a "guarnello," is transparent, and resembles a gauzy garment in Sandro Botticelli's "Portrait of a Lady," of a pregnant woman with hand over her stomach.” (Donland)
Knowing the immense measures Leonardo went though, his genius in hiding complex symbolism in broad view without anyone noticing for 500 years, his multi dimensional views on life, and his various legends surrounding him, it's possible for him to paint both a pregnant figure representing his sacred feminine philosophies, as well as himself dressed as a woman reflecting those beliefs or his homosexual or bisexual lifestyle.
At this point I urge the reader to see beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Leonardo consciously hid quite a number of things in the Mona Lisa that reflected enough importance in his life to go through painstaking methods to achieve so of which could have cost him his life. Luckily the fight to find out the truth is underway like we've never seen it before. The obsession we have with the painting goes beyond the painting itself like I have stated. Experts want to know the truth about the paintings many mysteries.
Right now Archeologists are exhuming skeletal remains and DNA testing the body of who they believe to be Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. They are her husbands son's DNA to the body they found believed to be her. “Because there is no doubt that Gherardini's husband is buried in the crypt below the church, experts are using his DNA to positively identify their son Piero, whose remains are interred with him in the family tomb. Piero's DNA will then be used to confirm Lisa's identity because he will have her DNA as well as his father's.” (Nadeau)
These are just some of the main findings that prove there is more than meets the eye in the worlds most famous painting. The reason skeptics have not seen anything proving the hypothesis that Leonardo hid his significant life moments and beliefs in his painting is because the painting has not been studied fully with modern applications. It is imperative the Louvre cooperates with scientists and art experts on releasing the Mona Lisa for study to learn more about Leonardo's life.
A huge reason these secrets have been kept in the dark so long and are not yet fully understood, is because the last time the Louvre allowed the painting to be studied was in the 1950's. It's under strict lock-down with the rare exception every now and then. This must soon change. We are just as drawn to Leonardo as a mystery and fascinating character in the history of humans. To say that this painting is Leonardo himself on many levels is to say that we are drawn to The Mona Lisa the most. With new studies, the genius of Leonardo da Vinci and his life can go from legend to history. Until then, Leonardo's secrets remain concealed in The Mona Lisa's smirk.
-Adam Absinthe 2015
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Let them come who wish to come, And let them go who wish to go, And do not harm to me or mine. -Ancient Icelandic Invitation Formula for the Elven Folk
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