Guests at the Last Supper?

This one’s more contemporary than my other posts, even if I am a little slow on the draw. It involves a recent claim by a guy who is variously described as a “computer analyst”, “amateur scholar” and “information technologist” (aka “a librarian”). Whatever he is, he’s called Slavisa Pesci, and he says that Da Vinci has hidden imagery within the painting, though he’s being deliberately coy about exactly what. Why do all that work yourself when there’s a world full of credulous loons to fill in the blanks for you? The story has been widely reported and, like all Da Vinci/Christ related claims, has attracted a lot of attention. Several of the websites set up to host the manipulated images he’s put together exceeded their bandwith which in turn led to further media coverage. His specific claims are:

1. On the extreme left and right of the painting, red-robed figures described as “knights”.

2. Mid-left, a female figure holding a baby, implied (if not stated) to be Jesus’ alleged squeeze and bearer of the holy bloodline, Mary Magdalene.

3. In front of the man himself, a goblet, presumably the grail itself (although perhaps not, as all recent speculative “historians” tell us that there was no actual cup).

Perhaps the most obvious problem here is that Da Vinci’s painting was made ooh, about 1500 years after Christ’s lifetime, and is therefore no more an accurate representation of the Last Supper than say, this. Another hitch with this theory is that the painting is, frankly, knackered. Da Vinci could not possibly have predicted how and to what extent his painting would fade and deteriorate. Possibly this has only made the alleged figures harder to make out, or, more likely in my view, it has allowed them to be imagined. You also have to ask why any 15th Century artist would hide these characters such that they would be undetectable by any known technology. Unless Nostradamus got him a very pre-release copy of Photoshop 0.0 I suppose. Not only has he flipped the image and superimposed it on top of the original, he’s had to make both copies semi-transparent to achieve the desired effect (which is still pretty unconvincing in my humble opinion). This makes “The Da Vinci Code” look like “History Today”. Thankfully, amongst the credulous and spinelessly neutral coverage, there is a goodly amount of scepticism (and naughty cynicism) out there – from expert soundbites and the good folk at howstuffworks.com, to outright parody. Cheeringly, many of the “have your say” sections are full of weary punters calling “BS” on this one. Has Da Vinci-mania finally jumped the shark? Let’s hope so.

Now normally, with these cases of pareidolia, I can at least see where the claimant is coming from, particularly assuming an acute case of Believeritis. But this time, it’s just not happening. It seems to me that you could read pretty much anything into the blurred mess resulting from Pesci’s photo-manipulation, and the things he’s “seen” wouldn’t be at the top of my personal list. The red “figures” look more like cardinals to me, or even these guys. This is why “analysis” like this is completely useless; there is no way to verify or corroborate these subjective claims. Have I strayed so far down the path of rationality and scepticism that I can no longer “see” with woo-tinted spectacles? Or this is actually an elaborate piece of viral marketing for a new wave of Magic Eye products? Who can say. See if you can still channel the spirit of Dan Brown by gazing at the images below until your eyes bleed:

Your recipe for guaranteed media coverage (not to mention potential book sales) is as follows:

last-supper.jpg
1. Take one JPEG of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo, save a second copy.

last-supper-2.jpg

2. Flip the copy horizontally.

last-supper-3.jpg

3. Overlay the copy on the original, and adjust transparency.

last-supper-4.jpg

4. Fire up the ol’ over-active imagination…

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5. Con. cen. trate…open your mind…let your brain wash over you…

Nope, sorry, still absolutely sod all. Methinks there’s something fishy about this Pesci bloke. Answers on a postcard to BSHistorian.wordpress.com…