Did da Vinci paint Mary Magdalene in The Last Supper?
In The Da Vinci Code Brown treats the figure in the painting as being undoubtedly Mary Magdalene, but what evidence does he have to back that up? Take another look at The Last Supper in the Art of The Da Vinci Code gallery.
In the book Dan Brown writes:
Sophie examined the figure to Jesus’ immediate right … a wave of astonishment rose within her. The individual had flowing red hair, delicate folded hands, and the hint of a bosom. It was, without a doubt… female.
“That’s a woman!” Sophie exclaimed.
Teabing was laughing. “Surprise, surprise. Believe me, it’s no mistake. Leonardo was skilled at painting the difference between the sexes.” (Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code)
The person sitting on Jesus’ right (the figure to the left of him in the painting) does have some feminine-looking features and may appear feminine but there is more evidence that it is a man, not a woman.
Evidence that the figure is not a woman:
- Da Vinci often drew androgynous looking men (men with feminine qualities); for example, see his painting of John the Baptist.
- It was common convention at that time to paint John the disciple with feminine qualities
- It makes sense to have John (called ?the beloved disciple? or ?the one that Jesus loved?) sitting to Jesus’ right.
- The person to Jesus’ right seems to be wearing men’s style clothing
- Surely when the picture was first painted, someone would have noticed it was a woman if indeed it was intended to be a woman. After all it is ?among the most famous paintings in the world?; it seems unlikely that this would just be coming to light now.
- The painting is meant to capture the moment when Jesus tells His disciples He will be betrayed, so all the disciples should be there. But if that is a woman in the painting, then one of the disciples is missing. Remember that at the time of the last supper, Judas has not yet betrayed Jesus so all twelve disciples would have been present.
- Even if da Vinci painted a woman sitting next to Jesus, that’s no reason to believe that da Vinci was accurate; he was painting over 1,400 years after the incident occurred
Sophie was pretty quick to identify the person in the painting as a woman, but what do you think? Looking at the painting is that a man or a woman? Do first impressions sometimes need correction? Is the evidence as obvious as Brown would have us believe?