Non è Ise, Antipodes. The true meaning of La Gioconda

Yesterday called a friend to ask me a curious question: is it true that the Gioconda of Paris (and Madrid) have a veil? I replied: Yes, the "veil of Isis", this one you have to draw back to "reveal" her secret (not in vain La Gioconda has raised it so you can distinguish her face).

I said him that, from my point of view, the Gioconda acquires the role which, in the tradition, had the seated Virgin of Romanesque art; and even beyond, the Egyptian Isis, of which those derived. And also she adjusts to the archetype of the card number two of the Tarot, known as the Popess. You will find some of my reflections in this subject in my book Los mensajes ocultos de Leonardo da Vinci.

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Gioconda of Paris

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Virgin of Montserrat

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A seated Isis of Egyptian origin

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The "Popess" in the Tarot cards. Note that points at an open book. In the Visconti Sforza Tarot (of 1432) we see the Popess occupying the second place, as is happening in the called Tarot of Marseille

But thinking a little more over this issue, I remembered that dark note from Jean Paul Richter, in which stands an annotation of a person who is not Leonardo (afterwards we will see that was writen by his disciple Francesco Melzi).

Such note (number 1.565) accompanies a text (number 1.078 in the notebooks of J.P. Richter) that speaks of the channels designed by Leonardo near the Loire river, when he was residing in Amboise (France) during the two last years of his life. However, this note is not complete, because his left side is missing, which alters the meaning. We found literally in the book of Richter:

XVI C. 6 de Civitate Dei, Ise Antipodes


Incomplete transcription of the note. Observe a square, which could allude to the painting of the Mona Lisa

I later found tthat he full transcript is as follows:

Libro XVI C. 6 de Civitate Dei, no- e []se Antipodes

The difference between both texts is evident. By some reason, the reproduction of the book of J.P. Richter do not includes the left part of the annotation, by which we read "Ise" instead of "no- e []se". This is perhaps a printing error.

Let us now focus on the expression  "no- e []se". The stripe accompanying "no-" is a calligraphic convention, consisting in the deletion of the final "n". Thus, it refers to "non" (no). With regard to "e []se", here the discussion is more arduous.

First of all I have to say that the calligraphy of the note belongs to Francesco Melzi, not to his master (Leonardo). This illustration -down- makes it clear:


Full transcription. The note was written by a disciple of Leonardo: Francesco Melzi. Note the coincidence with the Melzi writing in certain letters; especially in the "p" and in the union of the double "s"

What does he intended to say with "e []se"? The standard interpretation of this expression is "esse"; However, notice the syntactic incorrectness in the use of this Latin word (literally, the use of the infinitive "not to be-have Antipodes"). From my point of view -and I think that I am not mistaken- the first letter in "e []se" is an "è" (e accented), the third person singular of the present indicative form of the Italian verb "essere" (be), which is attached -with what appears to be an accent- to the capital letter "I" in Ise. So it would say "non è Ise, Antipodes". I rule out the option of "esse", besides by the incorrect syntax, because -as we have seen above- Melzi ussually joined the two S (SS) with a stroke, which is not the case here (the union between the "e" and the "I" of Ise would be explained -from my point of view- because of the accent of the "è").

And what wanted to express Francesco Melzi with all this? Surely, at some point he had a discussion with his teacher regarding the meaning of the text that I quote above (Chapter 6, book XVI, of the City of God). This work (the City of God of Saint Augustine) appears cited in the catalogue of books of Leonardo (folios 2v and 3v from the Codex Madrid II). Note that in La Gioconda someone (whether Leonardo or the same Francesco Melzi) puts two letters (S and A) on the right bank, alluding, in a cryptic way, to St. Augustine (that is indicated by the initials S and A). But also "someone" placed a 72 under the bridge, which as I have said repeatedly, is identical to the one of Monistrol de Montserrat (in time of Leonardo was more than one century old).

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Number 72 and the initials S A on the right bank of the Gioconda of Paris

And what literally says the Chapter 6 of the book XVI of the San Augustine's City of God? This: "Of those three men, therefore [Sem, Cam, Japheth] Noah's sons, began to exist seventy-three lands, or better, how it should be calculated, seventy-two towns with as many other languages, that growing in time have filled even the Islands".

Note the outlined part. It says literally 'seventy-two peoples' that populated the world. Thus we have the explanation for the number 72 placed under the bridge of the Mona Lisa. But beyond that, in Chapter 9 of the Sixteenth book of the City of God St. Augustine writes: "As to the existence of the Antipodes; i.e., of men that mark their footprints contrary to our feet by the part opposite of the Earth, where leaves the Sun when it is hidden to us, there is not any reason that force us to believe it". Here, as we see, we have the explanation of the note "non è Ise, Antipodes".

That is to say, if Francesco Melzi wrote this note -as I think-, possibly he intended to make it clear his opinion in relation to the discussion that possibly had with his master Leonardo, the possible author of the cryptograms 72 (the 72 peoples that repopulated the Earth after the flood) and S A (Saint Augustine), in the Gioconda of Paris. This discussion could have happened as follows: Leonardo perhaps had in his memory that the sense of these cryptograms (72 and S A) can be found in the Saint Augustine City of God (as it happens). In particular, he would say that the 72 expresses the universality of the message of the image, which he summed up in the expression "Ise" (Isis), the great mother with veil, personification of the Egyptian Isis, who is in a position of preeminence over Osiris, consort of the Goddess  according to St. Augustine.

However, Francesco Melzi, who would have readed the City of God, that Leonardo had in his possession, would have shown that Chapter 6 (and 9) of the 16th book refers, indeed, to the 72 peoples who populated the world, but not to Isis (and yes, it speaks on the Antipodes). Hence "non è Ise, Antipodes".

St. Augustine mentions -repeatedly- Isis in the 18th book of the City of God. He says (chapter 3): "The same it is said of Io, daughter of Inachus, which then was called Isis, who was given cult as the great goddess of Egypt..." And adds (chapter 37): "What wisdom could exist in Egypt before Isis taught the letters, and was held in good honor as the great goddess after her death?"

In short, Leonardo used La Gioconda as a 'message' (hence the symbol of the bridge, which means "that which unites") of "universal scope" (symbolized by the number 72, which refers to all the peoples of the world). This testimony, directed to the whole world, is intended to affirm the idea that the goddess is the owner of the secrets (hence her veil), and at the same time the mother of us all. It is well known that Leonardo spent much of his life to unravel the mysteries of nature (not in vain "matter" derives from "mother", the "Mother Goddess" of the ancients).

Perhaps at some point, in France, shortly before his death, Leonardo had a discussion with Francesco Melzi in reference to the meaning of his famous painting, where as we have seen the master would have hidden a series of glyphs (the veil, the number 72, the initial S and A -alluding to Saint Augustine-, etc.), which give clues of its hidden message. Perhaps Leonardo remembered well the meaning of the number 72, extracted from the Saint Augustine City of God, but not the exact passage where it was extracted from. Chapter 6 of the 16th book alludes to the 72 nations that repopulated the world, Yes, but not to Isis, that Augustine mentions in the 18th book. Hence the allusion to the "Antipodes": "non è Ise, Antipodes" (i.e., in chapter 6 of the sixteenth book of the City of God of St. Augustine there is not mention of Isis, but of Antipodes, and also of the 72 nations that repopulated the world after the flood).

In short, the note of Francesco Melzi, superimposed on Leonardo's notebooks, during their stay in France (shortly before his death), seems to give clues about the true meaning of La Gioconda:

-The Mona Lisa is a message to the world. Hence the number 72. The existence of the message is guaranteed by another cryptogram, where is clearly written the word CHE: "WHAT (means)?".


See the word CHE (WHAT?) in La Gioconda in Paris

-This message alludes to the role of the Mother Goddess, the universal great mother, that appears here pregnant (because she is a "fertile" mother).

-This Mother Goddess wears dark dresses, with the color of the fertile soil, as the 'Moreneta' which would have served as inspiration.


Leonardo would have been inspired by the Virgin of Montserrat (the Black Madonna) for painting La Gioconda. Note the similarity of their expression

-In other cryptograms, Leonardo communicates -perhaps- the place where the scene of the picture would have been located. The C (L) and the S in her eyes could allude to (C) atalogna and (S) pagna. The Italian scholar Silvano Vinceti, that found these cryptograms (as well as the number 72), believes that the L (not C) and the S would make reference to Leonardo and to Salai. I see it unlikely, because in the right eye Leonardo placed his initials (LV), so it would have to be discarded that the so-called L (which is actually a C) makes reference to his own name.

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Leonardo writes a C and a S in the eyes of the Mona Lisa

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Initials (LV) of Leonardo in the Mona Lisa

ANNEX: The 72 peoples who populated the world, according to St. Augustine, in allusion to the X book of Genesis (in Spanish):

DESCENDIENTES DE NOÉ: Sem, Cam, Jafet (no contamos sus nombres; sólo los de sus hijos).
DESCENDIENTES DE JAFET (14): Gomer, Asquenaz, Rifat, Togorma, Magog, Madai, Javán, Elisa, Tarsis, Quitim, Rodanim, Tubal, Mosoc, Tiras.
DESCENDIENTES DE CAM (31): Cus, Seba, Evila, Sabta, Rama, Seba, Dadán, Sebteca, Misraim, Ludin, Ananim, Leabim, Naftujim, Petrusim, Caslujim, Caftorim, Pilistim, Put, Canán, Sidón, Jet, Jeveo, Araqueo, Sineo, Arvadeo, Semareo, Jamateo, Jebuseo, Amorreo, Guergueseo, Nemrod.
DESCENDIENTES DE SEM SEM (27): Elam, Asur, Arfaxad, Salaj, Heber, Paleg, Joctán, Almadad, Salar, Jasarmanet, Jaraj, Adoram, Uzal, Diclá, Obad, Abimael, Seba, Ofir, Evila, Jobab, Lud, Aram, Uz, Jul, Gueter, Mas, Cainán.