Friday, December 22, 2006

Shrouded in Deceit – Leonardo's Last Laugh

Composite Photograph of the shroud

After 500 years we can at last spot the flaws in Leonardo's 15th century?

Greater contrast of negative image reveals detail

Anomalies resulting from projection of three images:

  • A giant figure – 6'8" at front, 6'10" at back!
  • Head too small for body – and displaced upwards! (projection of head added separately)
  • Face unnaturally thin; forehead and sides of face foreshortened, ears lost
  • Right arm/hand too long (double exposure of fingers)
  • Light circle on nose (effect of lens, centred on the face)
  • Back of head wider than front of head
  • Image area oxidized and dehydrated (result of using heat to burn chemical image into cloth. Chemical solution then washed off)

Other anomalies:

  • Hair hanging vertically, added later (on a shrouded, horizontal body hair would have fallen towards back of head)
  • Composed expression – odd for a torture victim!
  • No loin cloth but naked, with hands over genitals (sensitive to intended audience – or a cryptic joke?
  • 'Flowing blood stains' from a corpse? (added in separate process)

Positive image of the Shroud – as seen by the naked eye.

The Shroud is a biscuit coloured cloth 4.4 m by 1.9 m. The large marks are the result of a fire which burned the (folded) cloth and its subsequent repair, in 1532.

Carbon Dating of the Cloth

Such hullabaloo greeted the early identification of pollen ("as found in the Holy Land") in 1973 – yet carbon dating in 1988 at three different laboratories all agreed: the cloth was no older than the 14th century. At that time, the Crusaders brought back vast quantities of Infidel cloth, of much better quality than could be found in Christian Europe.

That the Shroud was fake was obvious – but then how was it done? No known painting technique could reproduce such an effect. This remained the last defense
of die-hard defenders of "authenticity."

But now we know better – the Shroud was not painted at all, it is a photograph!

Pity that 15th century Europe was still in the vicious grip of Holy Mother Church – we might have had the Box Brownie camera in time for the War of the Roses!

Leonardo – Sacrilegious 'Sorcerer' Outwits the Priests

"Many are those who trade in tricks & simulated miracles, duping the foolish multitude; and if nobody unmasked their subterfuges, they would impose them on everyone."

– Leonardo da Vinci (Manuscript F, Institut de France, 5v)

Best known for his artistic masterpieces Leonardo da Vinci revealed insights into everything from the human body to engines of war. He conceptualised objects as diverse as scissors, bicycles and helicopters. Living in the age of the Inquisition, a time when merely being a vegetarian might lead to execution, he had to remain ever vigilant of the censure of the Church. For its part, the Church was only interested in Leonardo's ability to artistically represent the Faith.

Commissioned to produce a better Shroud, he pioneered an early photographic technique, using lenses, a camera obscura, chromium salts and – in a wonderful satire on Church duplicity – his own face in lieu of Jesus Christ!

Head on the Shroud (left) and Leonardo da Vinci self-portrait (right).


On the one hand ...

The 'Shroud' is never mentioned in the New Testament – and nor is it ever referred to by early Christians.

On the other hand ...

'Holy Shrouds' were part of hugely profitable medieval fakery industry – more than 40 rival shrouds are known. The 'Turin Shroud' appeared suddenly on Good Friday, 1494!


The Devil's Magic? Camera obscura...

At least as early as Aristotle (4th century BC) it had been noted that a small hole into a darkened room throws a reversed and upside-down image of the outside scene onto the opposite wall. From at least the time of the Romans, it had been known certain materials reacted to light.

The challenge for Renaissance alchemist/artists – whilst avoiding the attentions of the Inquisition – was to capture and fix the projected image using the right material.

Leonardo, man of outstanding artistic skill and technical ingenuity, was equal to that challenge.

Leonardo's sketch of his "oculus artificialis" (artificial eye)
– a camera obscura.

When & Where?

Leonardo served several wealthy Renaissance patrons, including Giuliano de Medici, son-in-law of the Duke of Savoy. The House of Savoy (which became the Italian royal family) had acquired an earlier 'Holy Shroud' from a minor French aristocratic family, the de Charnys, around 1453.

This (painted) shroud had long since been denounced by the local bishop as "a fake used to defraud gullible pilgrims" but he had been silenced by the Pope. Nothing was seen of any shroud for thirty years.

Colluding with the House of Savoy, Pope Innocent VIII (the witch-burning pope, closely tied to Lorenzo de Medici) commissioned Leonardo to produce a 'better shroud' in 1492.

Under what threats Leonardo worked we can but speculate. Vegetarianism alone could have got him burned, let alone his homosexuality.

Two years later – no doubt after much experimentation – the 'Holy Shroud' appeared. In its positive form it was disappointing – and Leonardo was not paid!

By sheer serendipity, modern photography reversed Leonardo's image into an altogether more awesome artifact – and triggered off a new century of delirious 'Faith'.

The old alchemist would have laughed his socks off!

(Via World Mysteries.)

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