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Leonardo's 'Last supper' Hides True Da Vinci Code

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  • Leonardo's 'Last supper' Hides True Da Vinci Code

    Leonardo's 'Last supper' Hides True Da Vinci Code

    A real da Vinci code is indeed hidden within Leonardo's "The Last Supper," according to a book to be published in Italy next week. But rather than conspiracy theories, the new code points to a hidden musical score, a sacred text and a three-dimensional chalice.
    "This is not another spin-off of Dan Brown's novel. It's real," musician Giovanni Maria Pala told Discovery News in an exclusive interview. "I've always been intrigued by the possibility of finding a (piece of) music in the Last Supper, but I would have never imagined to find myself decoding a secret message by Leonardo."

    Indeed, Leonardo was an accomplished lyre player who also enjoyed hiding puzzles in his work. Pala, who will publish his findings next week in the book "La Musica Celata" (which translates to "The Hidden Music") claims to have discovered nothing less than a sacred hymn and text, along with mystic symbols in da Vinci's degraded masterpiece. "I was first struck by the tablecloth, which features horizontal lines but also vertical lines in correspondence with the pieces of bread. This made me think immediately of music notes on a pentagram. I tried to play the notes, but it did not work. Looking at single details wasn't the correct approach," Pala said.

    Finding the Hidden Score

    According to Pala, "The Last Supper" must be seen "as a harmonic whole, in which each detail has a precise meaning." The Apostles, represented in groups of three, gave him a hint that the piece should be played in 3/4-time, like much 15th-century music. But it was their hands, always in relation to the breads on the table, that provided the real score -- to be read from right to left, in line with Leonardo's writing.

    "I marked the pieces of bread on the table and the Apostle's hands as music notes. Then I drew a pentagram over the scene between the tablecloth and Jesus' face. I couldn't believe my ears when I played the music. It sounded really solemn, almost like a requiem," Pala said.
    But there was much more. Pala noticed that the notes, in their position, produced strange symbols -- similar to ancient cuneiform script -- when united to each other by lines.
    Examined by Father Luigi Orlando, a biblical scholar at the Antonianum Pontifical University in Rome, the cuneiform writing turned out to be a sentence written in ancient Hebrew: "bo nezer usbi," which means "with Him consecration and glory."

    Seeing the Chalice

    "At this point I was totally into this puzzle," Pala said. "I placed the nine letters of the ancient Hebrew text one on top of the other, following an ascending path, which is the direction of the hands of the first six Apostles. The result was a strange image."
    He noticed that on the table, to the right, Leonardo painted a piece of bread split in half.

    "I thought of this as a hint to duplicate that image," Pala said. The resulting image -- nine letters stacked on top of each other and duplicated -- was the chalice.
    When Pala rotated the image of the chalice further, he found a motif very similar to the decorations in Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church where Leonardo painted "The Last Supper" in 1497.
    "I think there are too many things fitting together, and cannot just be coincidences," Pala said.
    His discovery is sure to raise controversy.

    Preserving the Masterpiece

    Indeed, perhaps no other artwork is the subject of as much imagination as "The Last Supper." The mural has already been the subject of some extraordinary theories -- its characters scrutinized, mirrored, and superimposed on top of one another. The mural, painted to provide monks at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan something to contemplate during meals, is considered one of Leonardo's greatest works. Because of its decaying surface -- the experimental finish used by the artist was extremely fragile -- the work has been repainted many times over the centuries.
    A controversial restoration in 1999 attempted to remove all traces of previous over-painting -- but critics said it went too far and little is left of the original work.

    Unlike conventional fresco murals, in which water-based paint is applied on wet plaster to adhere to the surface as the wall dries, Leonardo's piece was executed with multiple layers of oil and plaster. While allowing greater precision of detail, this technique was particularly susceptible to dampness. Within a few years, paint began flaking off. In 1556 the art historian Giorgio Vasari called the work a "muddle of blots;" by 1796, Napoleonic troops occupying Milan were so unimpressed that they converted the refectory into a stable and amused themselves by throwing bricks at the Apostles' heads. And "The Last Supper" narrowly missed complete destruction in World War II when a bomb fell on the roof of the church: protected by sandbags, it went largely unscathed. As the mural deteriorated over time, sections were touched up using various chemicals and techniques -- some of which may have produced more damage than the French cavalry or the aerial bombardment.

    The End. Or the Beginning?

    The latest cleaning, which began in 1979 and lasted 20 years, made great gains in revealing color and detail, but a more thorough cleaning could destroy the work beyond recognition. The gains and losses are now visible on an Internet close-up, following the posting of a 16-billion-pixel image of the work. The image, 1,600 times more detailed than those taken with a 10-mega-pixel digital camera, is the world's highest definition photograph, says Mauro Gavinelli, the project's technical supervisor.

    The image is visible at and allows art lovers to view details of the 15th-century painting as though they were inches away from the work.
    Gavinelli and his team at HAL9000, a company specializing in art photography, put together 1,677 panoramic images of the 15-by-29-foot depiction of the moment when Jesus tells his Apostles that one of them will betray him. The resulting images will be used to monitor the state of the painting's degradation. Meanwhile, they have already revealed unknown details, said Gavinelli. "For example...a close-up reveals the gold flake Leonardo applied, despite believing that artists should be able to make paint glitter like gold," Gavinelli told Discovery News.
    Other close-ups show how Leonardo made the transparent cups, the church bell tower and shrubs outside the windows, and the patterns and wrinkles in the tablecloth -- including a tiny peacock "embroidered" into it.

    Cause and effect applies to us all, consider therefore your thoughts, words and actions carefully.