Leonardo's kaleidoscope

A few days ago (in the penultimate week of January 2013) I received a message on my website of a nature photographer named David Vilasís:


This man said me that, through a photo-editing program, he had found what seemed encoded messages in some pictures of Leonardo. He asked me to send him some images of greater resolution, which I proceeded to do with much pleasure.

Hours later he sent me a series of photomontages, made by mean of two procedures: juxtaposition with reversed images, or overlay (for transitions).

Leonardo and the optical effects

It is difficult to say if what seems to be "subliminal messages" are really hidden in these images; or on the contrary they are "pareidolias" (a misinterpretation of the mind), or the product of random. But is certain that Leonardo investigated the "science of the mirrors". In fact, one of his disciples, of german origin, is called "Giovanni degli specchi" (John of the mirrors). Vasari said of him: "He made many such follies and studied mirrors". It is possible that he has performed experiments to mask figures that can be distinguishable only in certain conditions.

Leonardo always felt a special curiosity by the apparently accidental "forms" which are derived from random, or from the point of view of the observer. In his Treaty of painting he wrote: "If you look at some walls full of spots or made with mish-mash of stones and you apply to invent any show, you will see on that wall forms similar to landscapes with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, valleys and hills, or battles with shaky figures, faces of strange expression and other thousand things that can be translated to good and complete form". This is an anticipation, four centuries before, of the so-called Test of Rorschach, employee in psychotherapy.

Look at the following image:












This "anamorphic" drawing, with a child's face and one eye (dated around the year 1485), is found in the Codex Atlanticus (fol. 35 v). The effort to "experiment" with the perspective of the observer is one of his researches in this field. The use of mirrors would be another example characteristic of his method.

Answering my requirements to give a sense of what has been found, David Vilasís writes the following:

"You ask me to explain what I see, but the problem is that I see too many things, and as I don't know the resources of the time Leonardo lived, I can't explain consistently what I believe to see... I prefer to speak of how it seems to me that it works. When we operate in the paintings of Leonardo, in application of this method of analysis, come out different compositions. And in what refers to his technique, after having seen and treated the images of Leonardo, it is possible the he has used mirrors. If you put a drawing in a semi-transparent paper, turning it over itself and placing it on top of the original to let see the bottom, you form another picture that changes when you move it. Perhaps he applied other procedures that are difficult to decipher. This is what I think what happens with his drawings and paintings (other painters may have employed this technique). If this is true, Leonardo would have been able to hide images within images; in some cases he would have done so as entertainment. All the drawings and sketches of Leonardo with which I have worked make sense perfectly. With the current computer is relatively easy to give features of this method of masking. In some cases, more than mirrors, he used -perhaps- transparencies".

From my own point of view, I think that the technique of mirrors (and slides) was perfected by Leonardo over the years. For example, its application in Saint Jerome (of 1482) is much simpler than in the Magdalena Leggente (of 1504, or 1512, according to my calculations).

Leonardo and the use of mirrors

The same Leonardo mentions the use of mirrors to perform his works in several passages. Here are some of them, extracted from his Tratado de la Pintura (collection Austral of Espasa Calpe):

"When painting you must have a flat mirror and look at it your work frequently; thus you will appreciate your mistakes".

"Have a mirror that reflects at the same time your work and your model, and that can serve you as element of judgement".

"A natural thing seen in a large mirror: that must be painting". (Note the implications that this sentence has for the painting titled the Magdalena Leggente of Barcelona; see below).

"Take, mostly, the mirror as a master, because in it the objects are projected in a mode similar in many points as they are given in the painting".

"Takes a large crystal and place it vertical between your eyes and the object that you want draw; then separate you of the cristal two thirds of fathom (a foot and half in distance) and immobilize the head by means of an instrument in order you can't move it. Then close an eye and mark with a pencil or a brush on the crystal what is reflected in it; draw then on paper what you've made on crystal; transport it to another crystal with more accuracy and then proceed to paint, always taking care to observe the aerial perspective".

This type of experiments with crystals, papers and mirrors, aren't the strategies that, according to David Vilasís, Leonardo could use to hide designs in the Magdalena Leggente?

I invite the reader to admire these beautiful designs, which are really fascinating.

The Magdalena Leggente and the mirrors

In the Magdalena Leggente of Barcelona: A genius from the nature and a dove (or a falcon)? In the place of a bird, others think they see a cup. Compare (to the right) with a "Green man", an ancient hermetic symbol, drawn by the christian hermetist Louis Cattiaux.









Note that this "Greenman  " (or "genius of nature") is located in the "axis of symmetry" of the painting, that covers also the cup (or bird), located under a "bowl" marked by the folds of the blue dress of the Magdalena. I think that this may not be a coincidence. On the other hand, the "Green man" is perched on a mound, perhaps alluding to the egyptian myth of the creation, that has to Atum (the Adam Cadmon of the cabalists) as protagonist.











I believe that this is a premeditated "cryptogram". The fact that the "homunculus" (as well as the bowl and the cup) are set in the same center -vertical- of the picture would demonstrate it.

David Vilasís says that, after more than one month investigating this phenomenon, he thinks that the Magdalena Leggente could be a work of Leonardo. The figures "hidden", in application of the technique of the "mirror effect" and the crystal, seems to prove it. This makes sense, if we take into account that Leonardo thought (and wrote) in "mirror effect", as it is well known.

The pigeon (or falcon) supposedly hidden in this composition perhaps explain the strange sentence that Leonardo wrote in the Magdalena Leggente: VEO AVES (I see birds).








Here we see some explicit buttocks, as opposed to the skull (superimposed on the cup of Magdalena). Perhaps this explains the strange robustness of arms of Magdalena, which is only understandable if the author - Leonardo - intended to achieve an effect as pointed above. We also see a profile (pubis, or cratera) V shaped. This composition seems an attempt to present a stereoscopic image (in 3 dimensions), centuries before its official invention. As they would say in catalan: "Aquí hi ha molta teca..."












Then we will see what looks like a M, superimposed on the book. Maybe referring to the "gospel of Maria Magdalena"? Here I compare this M with that hidden in the Last Supper by Leonardo.