His theory has been backed up by one of the world’s leading Leonardo scholars, Carlo Pedretti of the University of California at Los Angeles. He has known Seracini for 3 0 years, and says there is no doubt that the results ofhis recent tests are correct. “From what he showed me,” Pedretti says, “it’s clear that Leonardo’s original sketch was gone over by an anonymous painter.”
The Shroud of Turin
One of the most fascinating theories regarding Leonardo involves the Shroud of Turin, which is alleged to be the image of Christ imprinted on the shroud that covered him after his death. It is an odd fact that Leonardo never painted the Crucifixion, which was one of the major artistic themes of the time, and some believe that the Shroud ofTurin was created by him as his own idiosyncratic interpretation of it. The Catholic Church allowed scientists access to the Shroud for extensive investigation for only a single period of five days and five nights in 1978. The cloth itself has been carbon dated and found to have been made between 1260 and 1390, with 95% certainty. The Church announced this, probably much to their embarrassment, on October 13, 1988. One of the arguments against Leonardo having created it is that this was a considerable time before Leonardo was born in 1452. However, cloth from that earlier period was widely available in Leonardo’s time, as it had been brought back to Europe during the Crusades. It is possible that Leonardo would have used this material if he wanted to convince others that it was Christ’s shroud. It is impossible to say when the image itself was placed on the cloth, as carbon dating will not reveal this.
The face on the shroud seems to closely resemble that of Leonardo in his self-portrait. As discussed previously, Leonardo also appears to be the model of the Mona Lisa. Similar to Alfred Hitchcock, he seemed to enjoy playing cameo roles in his works. There is no doubt that he had the skills to produce a work such as the Shroud ofTurin and to disguise how it was achieved.
For 500 years the Shroud of Turin belonged to the royal family of Italy, the Savoys. The remaining heir to the family donated it to the Catholic Church in 1983. Also in the palace of the Savoys in Turin is the only known self-portrait of Leonardo. It is likely that the Shroud would have been commissioned by either the Duke of Savoy or the Pope, or possibly both of them in league. The theory is that they wanted a substitute of the existing Shroud of Lirey made. The Shroud of Lirey was first exhibited in 1389. and was denounced as false by the local bishop of Troyes, who declared it “cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who painted it.” This could obviously not apply to the Shroud of Turin, which to this day we are unable to ascertain how it was created. We do know that Leonardo Leonardo da Vinci -his life and art experimented constantly with new painting techniques. For example an x-ray of his painting John the Baptist reveals no brush stokes and appears to be painted like a mist. No painter has managed to replicate this skill.
In 1976 a photograph of the Shroud was put through a V-8 Image Analyzer, and it was discovered that three-dimensional information was encoded into it. It revealed a perfect relief of a human form, which would be impossible to create through painting. In fact, the modification of the fibers that create the image suggests some sort of burning process has taken place. This could have been achieved through a bas-relief made in an oven, and then the image would have been burned onto the cloth. It was common in the Middle Ages for bas-reliefs of the dead to be made and put on the top of graves. Leonardo certainly had the knowledge to do this and had receivtd training in sculpture.
There is also the convincing argument that the Shroud was created using a camera obscura which is a darkened box with either a convex lens or an aperture. The image of an external object is projected onto a screen inside the box. There are drawings of such a camera by Leonardo. He was familiar with the necessary chemicals, such as silver nitrate, that would be necessary to achieve this and he studied optics. This theory also explains why the back side of the body of the shroud appears taller than the front side. It takes only a slight difference in distance between the subject and the camera to make such a difference in size.
This whole issue, together with the fact that generations of pilgrims have worshipped the Shroud as being the image of Christ, not knowing that it was possibly Leonardo’s own image, would have amused him greatly. The Shroud is perhaps the greatest riddle that we have inherited from him.
Leonardo was close to King Francis I -in fact so much so that there is a painting of Leonardo dying in his arms. Francis was a Savoy who married into the Medici family and therefore Leonardo was as well connected as it was possible to be.
Leonardo would be the obvious choice for someone to create such a work as the Shroud of Turin. There was also the advantage of Leonardo’s unconventional attitude to religion. He would have had no fears of eternal damnation for the blasphemy of the act. As a scientist and homosexual, he was already beyond redemption in the eyes of the Catholic Church. He saw no reason why he should not work on Sundays. He never once mentioned God in the 13,000 pages of the notes that he wrote. In particular he despised the flourishing relic trade in which merchants made fortunes selling supposedly holy objects to the gullible. He was charismatic, handsome, amusing and popular. In his repertoire of humor was included what he referred to as “Pope Frightening.” An example of this was when he once told the Pope, probably Leo X, Giovanni de Medici, that he had a dragon in a small box. When he had worked the Pope up to a sufficient level of terror, he opened the box and out jumped a small lizard, painted silver, with wings attached to its back. In short, the hoax of the Shroud ofTurin would have appealed to his deep enjoyment of the sacrilegious.
The nails in the palms on the Shroud are positioned precisely where they should be if it truly represented a person who had been crucified. People were always crucified in this way, since nails driven at other points through the hands (as the Crucifixion of Christ has always been depicted) would not have been able to support a human body upon a cross. Assuming the Shroud is a fake, its creator would have had a precise knowledge of the crucifixion process. It is probable that Leonardo crucified some of the corpses that he had at his disposal and there is evidence that he studied the process.