Conspiracy theorists have long examined Leonardo da Vinci’s works for hidden meanings and most of these conspiracy theories rest on hidden secrets or codes. Perhaps we’ve all been fooled into thinking they’re more than just awe-inspiring works of art. Or maybe the conspiracy theories are true. However next time you’re visiting an art gallery or museum where you can admire the greatest works of Renaissance genius, try taking a look at them more carefully. Who knows what you’ll find hidden in the oil or marble?
1 – Salvator Mundi – mystery of crystal orb in Christ’s hand
Believed to have been created between the late 1490s and early 1500s, this full of mysteries and oddities portrait has a character at once real and unreal. Christ’s unnervingly unreadable expression almost (but not quite) earns the painting its hokey marketing tagline as “The Male Mona Lisa.” It is a naturalistic depiction, sans the crown or conventional gold halo of medieval art: Jesus as a human being. Yet his visage also seems to float in a smoky, chinless mist, in a way that may be meant to suggest the apparition of the Holy Face in Christian icons like the Veil of Saint Veronica.
Left: Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi. Right: Detail of the left hand and crystal orb (Image Source)
On a historic night at Christie’s in New York, Salvator Mundi, a depiction of Christ as ‘Saviour of the World’ by one of history’s greatest and most renowned artists, sold for $450,312,500 / £342,182,751 (including buyer’s premium), becoming the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.
According to William Henry – investigative mythologist, and TV presenter, typical of Leonardo, many of the objects in this painting have a deeper significance which is not at first obvious to the eye.
Glass sphere or crystal orb in Christ’s hand
Art historians are baffled by this solid, glass orb that, they say, lacks optical exactitude, and has caused them to question the authenticity of the painting. Walter Isaacson in his new biography, Leonardo da Vinci writes: “Leonardo failed to paint the distortion that would occur when looking through a solid clear orb at objects that are not touching the orb.” Isaacson notes that solid glass or crystal — be it an orb or a lens shape — yields magnified inverted or reverse images. However, as Isaacson observes, Leonardo painted the orb “as if it were a hollow glass bubble that does not refract or distort the light passing through it.”
To unseeing eyes, the orb appears to be a mistake. The three dots in a triangle leap from the image, what is their meaning? William Henri suggests it may be chintamani – the stone of heaven. Chintamani or Cintamani (jewel), a wish-fulfilling jewel in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. In Buddhism the Chintamani is said to be one of four relics that came in a chest that fell from the sky during the reign of king Lha Thothori Nyantsen of Tibet.
Left: Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi. Right: 14th century Goryeo painting of Ksitigarbha holding a cintamani
May be da Vinci wanted to show us that the crystal orb bubbling up in Christ’s hand is a symbol for a power source beyond human comprehension or the power of universe itself. Russian painter, Nicholas Roerich, who sought this stone, said it came from Orion.
2 – ‘Adoration of the Magi’ – resurrection of forbidden ancient knowledge
Leonardo’s enigmatic Adoration is unfinished and in a somewhat unsatisfactory state. The yellowing varnish that covers the entire piece mutes the vibrancy of the forms a great deal. Art historians have long suspected that a hand other than Leonardo’s applied the paint to the work at a later date. The dark brown smears in the foreground certainly seem much cruder than the delicate forms of the congregation.
Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci: The Adoration of the Magi Linear perspective study for The Adoration of the Magi, silverpoint, pen, and bistre heightened with white on prepared ground by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1481; in the Uffizi, Florence. Alinari/Art Resource, New York (Image Source)
Notice how Leonardo thought it necessary to design a much more complete architectural setting in his preparatory sketches. This is a truly remarkable insight into Leonardo’s compositional process: he seems to have felt the need to build the temple first before subjecting it to imaginary ruination. Some conspiracy theorists suggest that a preparatory sketch for his unfinished Adoration of the Magi in which pillars in a vaguely Egyptian style are seen rising from the ruins of a church. Based on that i tis possible to suggest that Leonardo originally intended to depict the resurrection of forbidden ancient knowledge…
3 – The ‘Mona Lisa’ contains a hidden code in her eyes
Mona Lisa has been the subject of intense scrutiny for many years. The common belief is that the woman is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florence merchant. Others believe she was his mother. But is the figure actually a man – or even Da Vinci himself? And where exactly is the painting set?
Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci
Stranger still, Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage claimed that a secret message was embedded in the painting. According to them, Da Vinci put tiny numbers and letters into the eyes.
Now, such letters can only be seen by magnifying high-resolution images of the painting. They’re invisible to the naked eye. Apparently ‘LV’ appears in the right eye, while the figures in the left eye are harder to understand.
But experts agree that the letters are difficult to read clearly. So did Da Vinci foresee the development of magnification technology? Or are people just seeing what they want to see?
Conspiracy theorists note that da Vinci took the painting everywhere with him in his later life. Was he protecting a secret message? Or just protective of his final image of his mother?
4 – The ‘Last Supper’ hides a musical secret
Da Vinci’s The Last Supper was critical to the plot of The Da Vinci Code. And like the Mona Lisa, the painting apparently hides secrets beyond the identity of the figures. In this case, a musical score. This secret doesn’t hinge on the figures – but the bread rolls on the table.
The Last Supper. Leonardo da Vinci
In 2007, computer technician Giovanni Maria Pala noticed the placement of the rolls looked like musical notes. He drew a musical staff across the painting to find out what the notes were. Played left to right, the music makes little sense. But Da Vinci always wrote right to left. Following that logic, the loaves (and the hands of the Apostles) become a 40-second musical score.
Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Da Vinci museum in Tuscany, admitted that Da Vinci was also a musician. The spaces in the painting provide the proof that the rolls and hands were intended to act as musical notes. Even detractors note the music is too perfect to be a simple coincidence.
5 – Virgin of the Rocks and curious cave setting
Although Leonardo da Vinci’s life is well-documented, there are two years that are missing, 1476 to 1478, when he was 24 to 26 years old. There re some suggestions he had spent some time in isolation, probably in the cave. Ancient Alien theorists speculate that Leonardo may had had a mystical experience, where he possibly may have met otherworldly beings, had prophetic dreams, or otherwise received knowledge from an alternate reality.
The Virgin of the Rocks (sometimes the Madonna of the Rocks)
Evidence can be found in his painting, The Virgin of the Rocks. The painting depicts a meeting of infant Jesus with infant John the Baptist during the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt. The children’s protectors have been reversed – Mary has her arm around John, and John’s protector archangel Uriel is with Jesus. In the apocryphal Book of Enoch, Uriel guides Enoch through Heaven, teaching him the secrets of the universe. Da Vinci may have included Uriel in the painting as an indication of his source of genius.
One of the features of The Virgin of the Rocks is the rocky cavern the scene is set in. Da Vinci may have linked his cave experience into this painting.
In addition to Leonardo da Vinci’s role in history as a famous painter, scientist and inventor, was he also the keeper of some vast secret to be passed down through the ages? Most of his world known artworks may contain hidden clues of secret or forbidden knowledge or messages.