"The Da Vinci Code" makes a lot of claims about art and the Christian Bible. Of all the disputed statements in the book, these can be the hardest to prove or quantify. Although some people spend their entire lives studying and interpreting art or religious scriptures, both fields are by nature imprecise. It can be impossible to determine an artist's actual intent for a particular piece or the exact meaning behind a particular religious passage.
According to the novel, Leonardo placed hidden symbols and codes in his paintings. For example, the book makes a lot of assertions about the "Mona Lisa," including:
Image courtesy NASA
Which of these points are true? Here's what we found:
"The Da Vinci Code" also proposes theories about Leonardo's painting of the "Last Supper." According to the book, it shows Mary Magdalene at the right hand of Jesus as well as a disembodied hand bearing a knife. Langdon's explanation for why people don't notice the painting's hidden meaning involves "scotoma" -- the brain blocking knowledge associated with powerful symbols. However, "scotoma" is a medical term that simply means "blind spot." A scotoma typically stems from neurological or ocular dysfunction -- not from exposure to a powerful symbol.
The figure to the right of Jesus does have a feminine appearance, but most scholars agree that it is the apostle John, who typically has a youthful, delicate appearance in artwork of the period. Careful examination of the painting also reveals that the "disembodied" hand really belongs to Peter, although he is holding the knife in a somewhat awkward position. Check out these annotated pictures to learn more.
The novel also makes numerous assertions about history and other works of art. Here's a run-down of some of the frequently contested points:
Finally, most of the theories in "The Da Vinci Code" about Jesus's relationship to Mary Magdalene, whether they had a child, the "real meaning" of the Holy Grail and the history of the Catholic church come from one source. That source is "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" by Michael Baigent and others. Also known as "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" in the United Kingdom, this book is marketed as a work of nonfiction. However, many critics have raised serious questions about its accuracy.
Check out the links in the next section for more information on the Louvre, "The Da Vinci Code" and other locations referenced in the book.