Neelam Shah explores Leonardo da Vinci’s connection with the mysterious Turin Shroud

Statue of da Vinci in Milan

We all think of da Vinci as the artist famous for painting the Mona Lisa and Christ in the Last Supper (which initiated some very interesting, yet controversial theories on who the last disciple in the painting was: Mary Magdalene or one of the brothers). However, there is more to Leonardo da Vinci than meets the eye. His life revolved around not only the arts of the Renaissance, but science too. He was an inventor and engineer: a pioneer, full of new ideas which seemed ridiculous during his time. Fascinated by human anatomy and anthropology, he would dissect corpses, pull out internal organs, and examine muscles, bones and blood vessels to gain a better understanding of how the human body works.

Da Vinci’s unusual pastime created one of the world’s greatest and most enduring mysteries: the possibility that the Turin Shroud is a hoax. The puzzle of whether the Shroud (Christ’s alleged burial cloth) is a counterfeit has plagued mankind for several decades. Many theorists, from forensic anthropologists to authors of mystery thrillers, have tried to find solutions to who, or what, could have created the image of the crucified face, if it is indeed a hoax.

There are many speculations regarding who created the image of Jesus Christ on the linen shroud; many believe da Vinci was the artist responsible. Historical evidence shows that he had a fascination for lights and lenses – calling it ‘oculus artificialis’, in other words, ‘artificial eye’. The theory is that da Vinci used an ancient photographic technique, called camera obscura, to capture the image of a face on an ancient cloth. It is thought that he used chemical compounds, such as silver sulphate, to create the markings and bruises seen on the Shroud. It would have taken up to three days for the image to fully develop on the linen, making it look like the crucified Christ had been wrapped in the cloth for centuries.

Carbon dating of the Turin Shroud has shown that it was made towards the end of the middle ages. This would indeed confirm that it is a hoax, but several scholars are convinced this result is flawed. Other research maintains no chemicals are detectable on the material. It seems this puzzle will remain unsolved, despite the capabilities of modern science. It has even been suggested that the image is the face of da Vinci himself.

There are still many uncovered truths concealing whose face the Shroud depicts and whether da Vinci was associated with it at all. No one knows for sure, but the journey to the answer still attracts many scientists and historians. The conflicting views regarding the Turin Shroud continue to render it unclear whether it is an authentic relic or simply a very clever hoax concocted by an ingenious artist. Who knows?


Neelam Shah

Image credit – picdrops