The Vitruvian Man - Leonardo da Vinci
Location: Gallerie dell'Accademia - Venice, Italy
(only displayed on occasion)
Additional Notes: The drawing is meant to show the ideal human proportions. The text above and below the drawing - written in mirror writing - describes the proportions for certain body parts.
"The Vitruvian Man," Langdon gasped. Saunière had created a life-sized replica of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous sketch. Considered the most anatomically correct drawing of its day, Da Vinci's The Vitruvian Man had become a modern-day icon of culture, appearing on posters, mouse pads, and T-shirts around the world. The celebrated sketch consisted of a perfect circle in which was inscribed a nude male... his arms and legs outstretched in a naked spread eagle.
Mona Lisa - Leonardo da Vinci
Location: Musée du Louvre - Paris, France
Most art historians believe that the subject of the painting is Lisa del Giocondo. However, there are other speculations of whom the subject is including: Isabella of Aragon, Salaí, and da Vinci himself.
The Mona Lisa was originally painted with eyebrows and eyelashes, but over time, they have gradually disappeared.
The painting was stolen from the Louvre in 1911, and there have many numerous attempts to vandalize the painting - including a rock being thrown at it, resulting in the loss of pigment near her left elbow. This was later restored. 1
The Mona Lisa's status as the most famous piece of art in the world, Langdon knew, had nothing to do with her enigmatic smile. Nor was it due to the mysterious interpretations attributed her by many art historians and conspiracy buffs. Quite simply, the Mona Lisa was famous because Leonardo da Vinci claimed she was his finest accomplishment. He carried the painting with him whenever he traveled and, if asked why, would reply that he found it hard to part with his most sublime expression of female beauty.
Madonna on the Rocks - Leonardo da Vinci
Location: Musée du Louvre - Paris, France
(Virgin on the Rocks - National Gallery, London)
It seems that Dan Brown was wrong in his analysis of Madonna on the Rocks. He mixed up Baby Jesus (on the right) and Baby John (on the left). Mary's "threatening" hand gesture is actually a common geture found in other works of art from that time period. Uriel's "cutting" gesture is simply him just pointing at Baby John. 2
There are a few differences between Virgin on the Rocks and Madonna on the Rocks, including the color scheme, background scenery, Uriel's pointing, halos, and reed cross (which may have been added at a later date). There has also been some dispute as to whether da Vinci actually painted Virgin on the Rocks. 3
As for the reason behind Da Vinci creating two similar paintings, it was most likely because of a financial dispute. 4 Not quite as interesting...
Oddly, though, rather than the usual Jesus-blessing-John scenario, it was baby John who was blessing Jesus... and Jesus was submitting to his authority! More troubling still, Mary was holding one hand high above the head of infant John and making a decidedly threatening gesture—her fingers looking like eagle's talons, gripping an invisible head. Finally, the most obvious and frightening image: Just below Mary's curled fingers, Uriel was making a cutting gesture with his hand—as if slicing the neck of the invisible head gripped by Mary's claw-like hand.
The Garden of Earthly Delights - Hieronymus Bosch
Location: Museo del Prado - Madrid, Spain
Additional Notes: The left panel depicts Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden with God. The central panel displays life on Earth and humans socially engaging. The right panel shows hell and its punishments.
The heavily forested park known as the Bois de Boulogne was called many things, but the Parisian cognoscenti knew it as "the Garden of Earthly Delights." The epithet, despite sounding flattering, was quite to the contrary. Anyone who had seen the lurid Bosch painting of the same name understood the jab
The Last Supper - Leonardo da Vinci
Location: Santa Maria delle Grazie - Milan, Italy
Additional Notes: The Last Supper depicts Jesus with his twelve disciples. There are speculations, such as the one in The Da Vinci Code, that claim it is Mary Magdalene instead of John the Apostle on Jesus's right. However, this many historians still disagree with this claim.
Tomorrow, I'll show you his fresco The Last Supper, which is one of the most astonishing tributes to the sacred feminine you will ever see."
Adoration of the Magi - Leonardo da Vinci
Location: Uffizi Gallery - Florence, Italy
Additional Notes: The painting depicts the New Testament's account of the three wise men visiting Jesus and Mary. The painting remains unfinished. Dan Brown is correct when saying that the underdrawing of the painting, completed by da Vinci, does not match the painted scene. 5
And the conspiracies kept coming. Most recently, of course, had been the earthshaking discovery that Da Vinci's famed Adoration of the Magi was hiding a dark secret beneath its layers of paint. Italian art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini had unveiled the unsettling truth, which the New York Times Magazine carried prominently in a story titled "The Leonardo Cover-Up."
1 - "Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci – Facts & History of the Painting." Totally History. Web. 29 July 2015.
2 - Shea, Lisa. "Virgin of the Rocks / Madonna of the Rocks - Leonardo Da Vinci Painting." Lisa Shea. Web. 30 July 2015.
3 - Alberge, Dayla. "The Daffodil Code: Doubts Revived over Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks in London." The Guardian., 9 Dec. 2014. Web. 30 July 2015.
4 - Graham-Dixon, Andrew. "The Mystery of Leonardo's Two Madonnas." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 23 Oct. 2011. Web. 30 July 2015.
5 - "Da Vinci's 'Magi' Hides Master's Original Vision: Photos" Discovery News, 12 Dec. 2012. Web. 31 July 2015.