The Leonardo Da Vinci Memorial Publicity Machine just keeps cranking them out. He must have more posthumously released material than TuPac. In a quite stunningly unoriginal but nonetheless headline grabbing effort, another Italian “computer technician” (this time also a musician) has combined August’s claim of a hidden image in da Vinci’s Last Supper with the concept of hidden music as claimed for Rosslyn Chapel. In doing so, he’s made it easier to slip under the radar as “plausible” – even a museum keeper is quoted saying as much. Without either a critical approach to the claims or musical expertise (and even with the latter), one could be forgiven for thinking his claim is proven. But as the same museum chap points out,
“There’s always a risk of seeing something that is not there, but it’s certain that the spaces (in the painting) are divided harmonically.”
“Where you have harmonic proportions, you can find music.”
In other words, if you look hard enough at a pattern that is neither wholly random, nor necessarily arranged with purpose in mind, you can find whatever your wishful thinking allows you to find. As Rosslyn showed, there’s a lot more to music than a sequence of values, and you can build a listenable composition around virtually any such sequence – honest musicians will describe the result as “inspired by”, not as an ancient hidden composition.
In this case, Pala has drawn five lines across the painting, treating it as though it were a musical stave. These he positioned by drawing a pentagram (naturally) “over the scene between Jesus’ face and the tablecloth”. He’s then chosen, based upon selective biblical significances, objects such as the loaves of bread and hands of Christ, and assumed them to be musical notes. Finally, he’s read the notes from right to left, following Da Vinci’s “mirror shorthand”, which makes sense if you assume that there is indeed a code to be found in the painting. This selective fitting of the evidence to a preconceived and closely-held hypothesis is where so many fall down.
Like the Rosslyn music and the Last Supper image, this idea could be perfectly true. But, at least from the press coverage, there is no objective evidence that Leonardo intended elements of his painting to be read as a piece of music. The semi-random distribution of the notes could just as easily be co-incidence, and the imposition of the five line stave is Pala’s, based upon his out-of-thin-air belief that a pentagram has anything to do with the painting. What other assumptions have been made? How many other aspects of musical composition have been applied by Pala to make this resemble any kind of tune, and on what basis has he selected these? What other interpretations exist of exactly the same evidence, and how many of these would pass muster in the way that Pala’s arguably facilitated interpretation seems to? Even assuming original intent by Da Vinci, to what extent could the final composition be considered his?
If you’re still undecided, Pala’s further imaginative reachings are truly out of left-field, and pretty much speak for themselves. Which is no doubt why they have been left out of the vast majority of press reports on this “discovery”. Thanks to Michael C of the JREF forum for pointing out the following quote:
“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.”
Well, quite. Hopefully it goes without saying that chances are high for this being nothing more than wishful thinking. I’m sure it’s well-intentioned and driven in large part by sincere interest and intentions, but it’s still just creative Pareidolia. Plus, when you have a book to sell in the run-up to Christmas, this kind of publicity can’t be bad, right? To say nothing of the column inches and webpage-space it allows the media to fill with the minimum of journalistic effort.