Musical Steganography in “The Last Supper” Painting
When I first read about Pala’s theory on music hidden in the Leonardo da Vinci painting, “The Last Supper”, the hands and bread rolls were only mentioned. This struck me as odd, especially when Pala’s reasoning for choosing the bread and hands were revealed.
Let’s take a step back real quick and talk about what happened at the Last Supper and the tradition of Holy Communion, also known as the Eucharist.
Most of us have a pretty good idea of how the story goes already: Jesus and the disciples gathered, ate some bread and drank some wine, said some prayers, then Jesus went off to sacrifice himself. (that’s the cliff notes version)
The bread, representing the body of Christ. And the wine, representing the blood of Christ. When Communion is taken, a piece of bread or a wafer is given & generally dipped in a glass of wine, or a small “shooter” of wine/juice is given along with the bread. Before the ceremony, a Bishop says a prayer to blesses the bread and wine. This is the recreation/representational act of what Jesus did on the eve of crucifixion.
So wait… what about the wine?
Yes… what about the wine.
It was strange to me that Pala had stopped short after the bread & hands. If anything, why not the bread & the wine? (there is good reason for the hands to be considered in their relation to Gregorian Chant and some nods to musical notation they seem to imply).
Pala believed the bread was important because, well duh.. the whole “body of Christ” thing. And that makes perfect sense in the realm of the Last Supper and the things depicted in the re-telling of that event through the various biblical narratives. Pala seemed to believe because the bread was important in the Catholic tradition, da Vinci would have made it important in the painting when it came to disguising notes. Assuming this is what Pala’s line of thought was, I am in agreement. It seems to make “logical” sense.
So… what about the wine?
Again, if the bread is important, I would assert that the wine would hold an equal level of importance. The Last Supper is known for bread AND wine, not bread and hands…
And just like the bread rolls, the wine glasses line up very well with the same exact spacing of a superimposed musical staff. I applied some further logic in the form of “if A then B“.
If the bread is important because of its relation to the Eucharist, then the wine must be important as well because it is mentioned just as often as the bread in the story of the Last Supper. Let’s build upon that and I can show you why the feet become important as well.
Bread : Hands as Wine : ____ ?
I had read that one of Pala’s reasons for including the hands as notes as that “they bless the bread.” On the outset, this seemed only somewhat related. Again, I was sold on the bread being important already because it plays such a significant role (pun intended) in the Last Supper.
But building upon the idea that the hands were important as well, I believed the feet must be equally as important; similar to the bread & wine relationship.
In the books of Luke, Mathew, and John, there are verses describing the “washing of the feet.” (Matthew 26:14-39; Luke 22:24-27; John 13:1-17)
While the meaning for this has been somewhat widely accepted (to show none is above another), I believe there was far more to it than a simple act of humility.
Reflexology or “healers with a foot fetish”?
Reflexology is a practice with an ancient history. While the term “reflexology” is relatively new (early 1900s), the application of pressure/massage to specific areas and zones of the feet & hands has been documented in ancient Hindu, Buddhism, Chinese and Egyptian history as a healing art. The addition of essential oils are often added to enhance or attenuate different effects or issues.
Jesus seems to be alluding to the feet being a way to “cleanse your body” that isn’t related to dirt/germs/odor that would be taken care of with a bath. The feet have so many mysteries about them and I could do an entire presentation on it, but this isn’t the place. The main idea to get across here would be, “feet are important and Jesus alludes to that here.”
Jesus doesn’t talk about “washing your hands” (though maybe that was known, even pre-corona-times haha). He specifically talks about FEET.
Do you see why I was so quick to assume the feet would play an important role? I think this is something da Vinci realized, too. But beyond just the physical, “ow, my shoulder hurts” or “ugh, my kidneys ache“, I think there was a spiritual or soul-cleansing mechanism that could have happened.
Hands & Feet, Bread & Wine
Rooted in the idea that the objects in the Last Supper painting have an encoding purpose, I started with what I believed was the most significant and then worked from there. Put on your tin-foil hat and try to follow along…
- Bread & Wine are the most important objects in the painting. They are directly related to Passover/Last Supper and the way they line up in the picture with a related interval seems highly intentional.
- Feet are on the next level of significance. I believe they are just as important (and even more so than the hands to a degree) than the bread and wine because of the accounts from Mathew, John, and Luke detailing Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus refers to this as a way to cleanse them so they can “share life” with him. Jesus makes clear indications that his washing of their feet does more than just clean the dirt off of them. And, of course, when mapped out with the same vertical spacing as the bread, wine, etc., the feet fall into regular, expected positions within the superimposed musical staff.
- Hands, to me, aren’t quite as important when it comes to the story of Passover/Last Supper, but they’re still significant nonetheless. Pala’s original assertion was that “the hands bless the bread”, so they’re significant. Again, to me, it was easier to make the case that the feet were significant, but I’m not arguing IF the hands are important.. just the “level” of importance in my opinion.
- Plates were something that I noticed seemed to be lined up like notes and I started digging into them. Because Pala’s line of logic that said, “the bread is blessed by the hands”, I extended that idea to “the bread is served on the plates.” Plus, the plates lined up with the same vertical intervals used in my superimposed musical staff.
- Eyes were one of the last things that I decided to check out to see if they may be significant. When laid on the lines of the staff, they worked! Numerous times, Jesus refers to eyes or sight as something significant in his teachings. Curing the blind, telling John the Baptist’s messengers to go back and say they’ve seen the miracles. Again, anchoring this ‘eyedea’ that the eyes may be significant comes from allowing the hands to be significant. If the hands bless the bread and the plates are what the blessed bread is served on, then the eyes are there to witness the miracles. Maybe it’s a reach, but because they lined up with the same staff as all of the other objects… I’ve included it.
There have been so many other discoveries related to da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”, but I think this is by far one of the most interesting to date.