Patterico's Pontifications


The Real Da Vinci Code

Filed under: Miscellaneous — DRJ @ 12:28 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

This AP article has the ring of truth to me:

“It’s a new Da Vinci code, but this time it could be for real. An Italian musician and computer technician claims to have uncovered musical notes encoded in Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” raising the possibility that the Renaissance genius might have left behind a somber composition to accompany the scene depicted in the 15th-century wall painting.

“It sounds like a requiem,” Giovanni Maria Pala said. “It’s like a soundtrack that emphasizes the passion of Jesus.”

Pala began studying the painting in 2003 after hearing a news report that “researchers believed the artist and inventor had hidden a musical composition in the work.” Pala’s theory seems almost simple:

“In a book released Friday in Italy, Pala explains how he took elements of the painting that have symbolic value in Christian theology and interpreted them as musical clues.

Pala first saw that by drawing the five lines of a musical staff across the painting, the loaves of bread on the table as well as the hands of Jesus and the Apostles could each represent a musical note. This fit the relation in Christian symbolism between the bread, representing the body of Christ, and the hands, which are used to bless the food, he said.

But the notes made no sense musically until Pala realized that the score had to be read from right to left, following Leonardo’s particular writing style.

In his book – “La Musica Celata” (“The Hidden Music”) – Pala also describes how he found what he says are other clues in the painting that reveal the slow rhythm of the composition and the duration of each note. The result is a 40-second “hymn to God” that Pala said sounds best on a pipe organ, the instrument most commonly used in Leonardo’s time for spiritual music.”

One expert agrees that the spaces in the painting are divided harmonically, noting that “Where you have harmonic proportions, you can find music.” In addition, we know Da Vinci was not only a painter, sculptor, and inventor, he was also a musician.

Pala believes his theory supports that Da Vinci as a religious man, not an heretic:

“Pala stressed that his discovery does not reveal any supposed dark secrets of the Catholic Church or of Leonardo, but instead shows the artist in a light far removed from the conspiratorial descriptions found in fiction.

“A new figure emerges – he wasn’t a heretic like some believe,” Pala said. “What emerges is a man who believes, a man who really believes in God.”

There’s a picture that illustrates Pala’s theory at this link and you can listen to the music here.


One Response to “The Real Da Vinci Code”

  1. Ring of truth? This is more like reading tea leaves or interpreting Nostradamus, or like any other wacky theory academics come up with.

    But if it is true, all it shows is that Leonardo was a lousy composer. Good thing he kept his day job. :)

    Jim C. (a6819b)

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