Friday, January 11, 2008
Da Vinci’s Darth Vader
Perhaps this is a bit out of the box, but can you really expect me to resist being able to mention Leonardo Da Vinci and Darth Vader in the same post? According to this story from the Discovery Channel, a theory has emerged from the organization The Mirror of The Sacred Scriptures and Paintings. Headed up by “self-taught” Argentine historian Hugo Conti, the society claims that when a mirror is held up to certain of Da Vinci’s works that Biblical references appear, from the Holy Grail (in the image above) to the face of the Old Testament God Javeh, or what to others resembles Darth Vader.
Conti claims that he has discovered these hidden images by deciphering aspects of Da Vinci’s paintings as signposts for where a mirror needs to be placed. So, in “The Last Supper,” Conti contends, “The glance of the apostle James is not directed to Judas, but to where the Holy Grail, only viewable through a mirror, is overturned on the table, just between Jesus’s hand.”
The Javeh/Darth Vader face appears, when mirrored, on the painting “Saint Anne, the Virgin and Child,” which hangs in London’s National Gallery. A similar face is also visible on the right shoulder of the “Mona Lisa.”
Conti claims that Da Vinci, like many of his peers, believed in Biblical allegory. From the article:
According to Conti, Leonardo da Vinci and other Renaissance artists had knowledge of the allegories mentioned in many biblical references and in the treaties of Philo of Alexandria, a 1st century philosopher and theologian.
"All the images are related to explanations given by Philo, who reveals that the Bible is a symbolic representation of the history of the human intelligence," Conti said. "Adam is the intelligence that resides in the mind of every human, while Eve is the corporal sensibility. The hidden images in the paintings tell this story and can only be seen with a mirror by those with sharp vision.
In a response to this theory, a writer in the Italian journal Il Giornale dismissed the claim as pareidolia: “Our brain tries to give a coherent meaning when faced with ambiguous figures, such as when we look at the clouds in the sky . . . If we apply the mirror technique to a picture of Marilyn Monroe, we obtain a disquieting face with a chalice. Right, there is the Holy Grail on Marilyn's forehead.”
While these images require a bit of work to see, they definitely speak to the stories in Madonna of the Toast. Whether someone sees the Virgin Mary in a tree, or the face of God in a mirror placed against a painting, people want to find meaning anywhere they can find it. Both images are the result of this quest, no matter how outlandish it may seem. Clearly, Conti believes in his theory, the same as those who pray at these unexpected shrines believe in them as touchstones of faith in something that cannot be tucked neatly into a explanation.
Who knows, maybe you really can see the Holy Grail in a photograph of Marilyn Monroe.