Friday, 25 January 2008

Mona Lisa overkill...

Why is it that so many people wonder whether Leonardo da Vinci created the Voynich Manuscript? Even well-informed, thoughtful people like Edith Sherwood (whose Adwords ad frequently pops up if you happen to Google for "Voynich") manage to succumb to this notion.

There's only one little problem: the VMs' pen-strokes predominantly go from top-left to bottom-right, clearly indicating that it was written by someone who was right-handed. (Or left-handed, writing from right-to-left with the pages upside-down: but that just seems a bit stupid). In terms of identifying the author, that's about 10% of the population eliminated: but, sadly, this is the tranche containing our Florentine chum Leonardo.

It's probably symptomatic of what I call "join-the-dots history", where you start with a set of evocative pieces and then work out the minimum amount of evidence you need to appropriate / use / abuse to link them together in a way that suggests some kind of correlation. For example, if you started with the (fake) Priory of Sion, Leonardo da Vinci, and Opus Dei... errrrrm... no, that would never work...

Anyway, here's the latest real news on Leonardo: apparently, the Mona Lisa was indeed a picture of Lisa del Giocondo, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, and was being painted in October 1503. We have a "Heidelberg library expert" called Armin Schlechter to thank for finding this: and thankful I am.

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