José Luís Espejo - Leonardo, heretical

Leonardo, heretical

 

            In my article Leonardo, spy in Montserrat (year 1482) I raise the hypothesis that the Florentine artist arrived in the monastery towards the year 1482, in quality of spy, being vicar (of part of the Abbot Giuliano della Rovere, the future Pope Julius II) the Abbot of Santa Cecilia of Montserrat, Llorenç Marull. In that article, I present a letter, signed by Joan Boada (of which we do not know the recipient), in which is exposed the presence in Montserrat, in time of the "illustrious Mr. Rull" (Marull), of a "fake Italian pilgrim". It is said also that are being "thrown" (deleted) letters on a 'subject' which causes 'murmurs', and that Joan Boada has informed Mr. Francisco de Zamora, officer of the Court of Madrid. At its side, we see the drawing of a statue of Sainte Cecile, which we can date back before the 16th century (does not appear any musical instrument, fundamental icon of the sainte from the 16th century), with the initials LdV (Leonardo da Vinci?). Remember that Llorenç Marull was Abbot of Santa Cecilia of Montserrat. If such LdV is Leonardo da Vinci, the statue would have been commissioned to him by the vicar of the Abbot of Montserrat (the illustrious Mr. Rull of the letter).

            In a later article (The presence of Leonardo in Montserrat, silenced) I argument that the cover-up of the presence of Leonardo in Montserrat, which would have taken place in time of Francisco de Zamora and the archivist Benet Ribas i Calaf (more exactly in the year 1789), would have been accompanied by other acts of "cover up". The clearest one is the blurring of the text accompanying the drawing of a mountain on folio 4 recto from Codex Madrid-II. We only distinguish the word "Rocafor", alluding -in my opinion- to Sant Genís de Rocafort, close to Martorell, right next to the "Observatory of the Mona Lisa" from which Leonardo took notes for the landscape of La Gioconda, in 1504.

            In the year 1505 (i.e., a year later) was painted this icon of the world Art. Its "sister" of Madrid (the called Gioconda of the Museum of El Prado) was painted with the same carton, perhaps by a disciple of Leonardo (there is no doubt that the copy was produced in his workshop). Here a third cover-up took place. The bottom of the Gioconda of Madrid (or from El Prado) was painted black around the end of the 18th century, which would coincide in time with the destruction of letters in the monastery of Montserrat, perhaps under orders of Francisco de Zamora (see above).

            What does have in common the letter from Joan Boada of the year 1789, the Codex Madrid-II and the Gioconda of el Prado? A very important fact: the three documents were physically deposited in the Royal Palace of Madrid. The first one would be preserved in the Royal Library of the Royal Palace, the second in the National Library (Biblioteca Nacional), and the third in El Prado Museum. Everything suggests a conscious "covering up" operation. But, why?

            There are many who have asked it to me. After weeks of reflection, I've come to a conclusion: both in Madrid and in the monastery of Montserrat somebody tried to hide the passage of Leonardo by Catalonia because he was considered "heretic", and they did not want to link this painter (and spy) to the sacred shrine of Montserrat.

 

La Gioconda of Madrid

 

            Is there any evidence or indication that this theory may have some likelihood? Yes, and it is quite clear. Let's look at the Gioconda of El Prado:

 

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Gioconda of Madrid (nowadays in El Prado Museum).

 

            It is necessary to imagine this painting with a black layer in the background (as it was before of its last restauration). Just look at one small detail, at the left bottom edge:

 

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The 666 in the lower left edge of the Gioconda of Madrid.

 

            What do we see? Indeed, three 6 (the number of the beast 666).

            The first mention of El Prado's Gioconda takes place in an inventory of the Royal Palace in Madrid, dating from 1666. Here appears with the title "a woman of Leonardo Abince's hand 100 ds [doblones]". Experts think that its acquisition could be a result of the Spanish occupation of Milan, in 1525, after the battle of Pavia. This, however, contradicts the circumstance that Vasari saw the work in Italy sometime in the decades of 1530 or 1540. Also could have arrived to Spain thanks to the Italian sculptor and scholar Pompeo Leoni, resident in Spain to the end of the XVI century. This man could have bought the painting to Orazio Melzi, following the death of his father Francesco Melzi (pupil of Leonardo) in 1570. Still we can find another possibility: that it arrived through the Marquis of Leganés, that according to Javier Sierra, carried to Spain several originals of leonardesque inspiration from Milan.

            The Marquis of Leganés endowed to the monastery of Montserrat, according to the Compendio Historial... de Monserrate, of an image of the "Immaculate Conception of Maria with a throne of Angels". It is remarkable the fact that he bought this Immaculate in Italy by 1,000 real "of a eight". Could be then when he has led to Spain, supposedly, La Gioconda de Madrid?

            We can even expand the number of options. We have to count with the fact, as I explained in my book El viaje secreto de Leonardo da Vinci, that Francesco Melzi belonged to a lineage with Catalan connections, as it could also be the case -see my article Reflexiones en torno al posible origen de la familia da Vinci- with the family of Leonardo. Perhaps by this reason may be ties of friendship between both lineages. In the Diccionario heráldico y genealógico de apellidos españoles y americanos, of the brothers Alberto and Arturo Caraffa, it is said of the catalan Melció (or Melcior) that they come from Germany, and then passed to Italy, founding a house in the villa of Melzo, close to the city of Milan. This house would have provided the branches established in the subvegueria del Pallars and in the vegueria of Lleida. These Melció (or Melcior), extinct in 1240 in Catalonia (perhaps they fled after the fall of the cathars in Montségur, the year 1244), returned in Catalonia to appear in times of the King of Aragon Alfonso V the Magnanimous (first half of the 15ht century). 

            The Melzi had frequent contacts with the Spanish Crown, and with some of its most prominent families. The Melzi d 'Eril (of which descends Francesco Melzi d'Eril, very important figure in the Italian politics of late 18th century and beginnings of the 19th) belong to a side branch of the Melzi (derived of the uncle of the grandfather of Francesco of Melzi, of name Ambrogio). In the XVIII century they linked with the Spanish familiies Erill (of this one inherited ilts last name) and Palafox; but already in the 17th century they had a strong link with Spain. The same Francesco of Melzi, disciple of Leonardo, could have a special relation with this country. In the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani it is said of him that he possessed a “raccolta manoscritta di liriche spagnole". Which is equivalent to saying that dominated the Spanish language. 

            Thus, what can we say about the Gioconda of Madrid? It is wrapped in as many puzzles than its namesake in Paris. Let's start by the black background. The chemical analyses of the version of El Prado have shown that this is a subsequent repaint, and that its binder is linseed oil. It is estimated that this layer would have been added in a date not earlier than the year 1750. With what reason was added this repaint? Perhaps its aim was to hide some relevant fact? Perhaps that both Giocondas, the one of Madrid and the one of Paris, are sisters? Taking into account that the bottom is concealed, not the figure, it is clear that if there was an attempt to erase any evidence, this had relationship with the landscape, not with the portrayed woman. 

            We need to have into account that at the end of the XVIII century the scholar Francisco de Zamora proposed to make a history of Montserrat, in collaboration with the archivist of this monastery: Benet Ribas. Of the notes of the latter, today in the Royal Palace of Madrid (Descripción geográfica, natural y política de la montaña de Monserrate), it is possible to rebuild a part of the history of Montserrat (until the 13th century).

            We already know that some specifications of this work (between 1475 and 1484), corresponding to the part preserved in the monastery of Montserrat, have been lost. The covering with a black layer of the Gioconda of Madrid would have been made with few years of difference -if not simultaneously- to the writing of this history of the monastery of Montserrat. This makes me suspect. Perhaps someone could think to be good  to erase all evidence of the passage of Leonardo by Catalonia, snatching the missing pages of the Annals of Montserrat (that would agree in time with the presence of Leonardo in the monastery), and covering the landscape of La Gioconda in Madrid? Could be perhaps Fernando de Zamora, with the complicity -as seems to indicate Joan Boada in his letter- of the archivist of Montserrat Benet Ribas? 

            This is just an hypothesis. But what is not so irreal, but an indisputable reality, is that at a certain point the number of the original inventory (199) was deleted and changed by other (666). This satanic number may refer to the year of inventory (1666), or perhaps pretends to mark this painting with a fiendish, evil seal. Perhaps was thought that it was a "thing of the devil"? Perhaps the same individual that changed the number of inventory put on the bottom a layer of black paint. Thus -possibly could think- would erase the evil curse, and the woman in the picture would be no more than a beautiful face with an elegant dress (and a transparent veil).

            And on the other hand, the heretical Leonardo would be separated of the surroundings of Montserrat. But, is it certain that Leonardo was an heretic? Above we have seen that in Spain some people perceived that he really was. Are there documents to support this conviction?

 

¿Was Leonardo really heretical?

 

            Francisco de Zamora, cultured and readed man, could have known the famous book of Giorgio Vasari Vida de los mejores pintores, escultores y arquitectos italianos, published in Florence in the mid-16th century. Its first edition says of Leonardo: ""He came to have so heretical ideas, not approaching to religion, that he had much more esteem being a philosopher that a Christian". Lomazzo, another biographer of Leonardo, said: "He finished so demonized with the sciences tlhat ittle missed finishing on heresy, for having better esteem for  philosophy than for the Christian religion".

            It can't be denied that Leonardo was seen, among his countrymen, as an heretic man.

            Leonardo da Vinci put in risk his life and freedom in some compositions certainly little orthodox, in a time in which the inquisitorial zeal had been renewed and strengthened. The examples are numerous: Leonardo gives his back to Jesus in the Adoration of the Magi, and -if it is true that he is represented by the Apostle Judas Tadeus- also in the Last Supper of Milan. He reacts with contempt to the child Jesus of the Virgin of the Rocks, which is ignored by the angel, which points his finger towards John the Baptist; and with not less contemption he considers to Christ n the Adoration of the Magi, where is omitted the gold in the gifts of the Magi (is offered, on the other hand, frankincense and myrrh). Maybe because He was considered an illegitimate ruler? The detail of the face of the child (whimsical and ill-mannered), in contrast with the serenity of the gaze of the mother (Mary) makes suspect that some of those sensations can be true. Perhaps its high heretical content would explain that he never ended it. 

            The Adoration of the Magi can make us think that Leonardo was more "marianist" (i.e., devotee of the Virgin, as they were the Templars and -to a lesser extent- the Cathars) than Christian. In general, he granted to Jesus a lower range  than to John (the Baptist and the Evangelist), the Magdalena or the Virgin Mary, three important figures on the Cathar cult. In a given passage Leonardo said: "Many who profess the faith of the son [of Christ] only build temples in honour of the mother [Mary]". Leonardo was one of them. Perhaps a renegade of the Catholic faith who recanted the Church of Christ crucified to venerate the saints of the Cathar faith: "I see Christ sold and crucified again and his saints suffering martyrdom".

            But the more clear evidence of Gnostic (or heretical) influence, in the Last Supper, is the threatening gesture of Peter to Maria Magdalena (with knife included). Not to mention the own layout of the table. The Pistis Sophia says:

 

"[Jesus] placed a cup of water ahead of the vessel on the right, and placed a cup of wine ahead of the vessel of wine on the left, and placed loaves of bread according to the number of disciples in the middle of the glasses, and put a cup of water behind the loaves of bread".

 

            Bread, wine and water. The three fundamental elements of the miraculous work of Jesus (remember the multiplication of the bread, and the conversion of water into wine) appear in this Gnostic text, and also in the Last Supper of Leonardo. Everyone can say whatever he wants, but I believe that there are common elements between the Pistis Sophia and the Leonardo's Cenacle. One of them is the manifest hostility of Peter to Magdalena. But, how is it possible that this penitent sainte -which is confused with the consort of Jesus- appears in the Last Supper?

            If we refer to the canonical Gospels, this is impossible, because the only dinner where Maria Magdalena participated -somewhat untimely, not to say impertinently- is that of Simon the leper. In this supper she washed the feet of Jesus with expensive ointment (being condemned by Judas). But this scene is not so unlikely if Leonardo was inspired by the gnostic gospels. In the Pistis Sophia the Magdalena form part of the four female disciples of the Saviour (the other three are Martha, Salome, and Mary, the mother of Jesus). Along with John the Evangelist, Magdalena is His favorite. Hence the identification John-Magdalena in the painting (is this the cause of the so called "beloved disciple"?). Magdalena dresses in reverse order (stating His complementary role) to as Jesus does. It is well known that the group of Maria Magdalena, along with the triangle of Christ, form an 'M' that perhaps seeks to express the concept of mother, maternity, or allude to the Magdalena. 

            We already saw in the article The Holy Supper of Solsona, model for the Last Supper of Leonardo? that Leonardo could have been inspired by this gothic work of the Catalan school, with a neo-catharist scent, to paint the Last Supper. Pere Teixidó (mid-15th century), author of the Last Supper of Solsona, could have inspired in Leonardo the design of the scenery, and even the iconography of the milanese mural. 

            We'll return to the year 1481, when Leonardo disappears of Florence, to appear (a year and a half later) in Milan (signature of the contract of the Virgin of the Rocks). Why did he fled from his native city? There are biographers that links this fact to his problems with the justice by a series of cases related with the homosexual trade of relevant artists and Florentine noblemen (it is what says, for example, Charles Nicholl). This reason, and his constant professional misfits (paintings that he charges and doesn't finish), would have caused a loss of prestige that would have forced him to emigrate to other horizons.

            Without denying the impact that had on his life the called "Saltarelli affair" (very relevant, but that happened five years before his departure from Florence), I believe that his problems with the law have more to do with accusations of heresy, fruit of the interpretation that his contemporaries made of his painting The adoration of the Magi, than with issues of a sexual nature. The accusation of heresy would have led him to jail by second time, in 1480, four years after the Saltarelli affair. 

            Leonardo could have spent a few days locked up as a result of the Saltarelli case (in the year 1476), but I am convinced that it was on the occasion of his work in the Adoration of the Magi when he was deprived of freedom for a longer time. He, himself, says it in a very explicit sentence: "When I made a child Christ I was put in jail; If I show Him adult you will do something worse"(Charles Nicholl: Leonardo, el vuelo de la mente, page 142). Child Christ cannot be other than the ill-mannered Jesus of the Adoration of the Magi, surrounded by a imploring and turbulent crowd  and seen with a look of disapproval by an old man. The adult Christ would be the Jesus in the Last Supper, protagonist of a representation not completelly orthodox according to the Catholic canon.

            This period of imprisonment (the year 1480), as result of a free interpretation of the Scripture, would be -from my point of view- the trigger of his departure from Florence, which would have taken place a year after the scandal.

            However, Leonardo never left to contemplate the passages of the New Testament from a different perspective, unorthodox. He invariably placed to Christ and to John the Baptist in a same scenario, during his childhood, altering the version of the canonical Gospels (but looking inspiration in the apocryphal gospels). We find examples of this heterodoxy, not only in the Last Supper, or in the Adoration of the Magi, but also in his Saint John the Baptist, in the Virgin of the Rocks or in different versions of his St Anne with the Virgin Mary and two boys (Christ and John).

            That means that Leonardo was unorthodox in matters of religion, if Vasari is right when he says in the first version of his Lives: "He came to have so heretical ideas, not approaching to religions, that he had much more esteem being a philosopher that a Christian". But in no case he was an atheist, or a skeptical.

            Although we know that -according to the Christian Orthodoxy- in matters of religion is much worse to be heretic that atheist.

 

 

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