|Chapter 1:||The Da Vinci Code Controversy|
There are numerous questions about the painting, made all the more difficult to answer because of the rough condition of the original. But the debate continues about whether the character at Jesus’ right, possessing some androgynous qualities, was in reality his “companion,” Mary Magdalene. Strenuous arguments have been made that this must be the 12th disciple and therefore could not have been a woman. But Leonardo may have implanted at least one other suggestion about womanhood in the painting, depending upon the perspective of the viewer. Or was Leonardo simply exercising an eccentricity derivative of his training in the Florentine school of painting, which was known to depict young men as effeminate?
What is absent is as interesting as what is present in The Last Supper. A chalice, a formidable cup—as legend would have it, the Holy Grail—is not to be seen. Dan Brown’s book links Leonardo da Vinci to the group invested with keeping the secret of the “real” Holy Grail for the past several hundred years. Voila! A conspiracy theory is forwarded.
Yet others claim that the grail-as-actual-chalice concept was meant to be metaphorical and so we should not expect to see it as an item in the painting.
Numerous books and multimedia titles have been marketed to debunk suggestions made in The Da Vinci Code, but part of the appeal of Da Vinci seems to be the cleverness with which Brown interweaves questionable symbols, allegories, and anagrams. He attributes membership in the secret society of the Priory of Scion not only to Leonardo but to Botticelli, Sir Isaac Newton, and other supposed “grand masters” of history.