Did Leonardo da Vinci create the Shroud?
It is a wild theory, the notion that Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) created the Shroud of Turin. It makes no sense from either a scientific or historical perspective.
The claim is that Leonardo da Vinci created the images with a primitive medieval room-sized camera. It is conspiracy theory at its best. It is pure apophenia, a belief in the connectedness of unrelated and meaningless observations. Anything can be inferred by being selective with facts, promoting conjecture, arguing that the absence of evidence is itself evidence and mixing in a bit suspicion.
- The proponents of this theory, primarily authors
Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince,
explain that the chemicals needed to make photographs existed in
Leonardo’s day. They have always existed. Just because they existed did
not mean that anyone had figured out how to use them to take
- They explain that Leonardo was
a genius. The list of geniuses is long.
- He was familiar with the camera obscura, a box or room that enables projecting an image onto a wall or sheet of paper. Many educated people knew about the camera obscura and indeed there is some evidence that artists, for many centuries, used them for tracing. Long before Leonardo, Alhazen of Basra (965-1039), a Muslim polymath explained the camera obscura his Book of Optics, widely circulated in medieval Europe.
Part of the problem with the Leonardo da Vinci theory is that Leonardo was born in 1452. The Shroud that is today in Turin was being displayed in the 1350s in Lirey, France. To make the theory work, it was necessary to invent the idea that an inferior “fake” shroud existed and the Leonardo replaced it. The argument rests solely on speculation that he had an opportunity (which is questionable) and that the then current owners, members of the House of Savoy, had a motive to possess a better fake (most unlikely).
The arguments continue: The face on the Shroud looks like Leonardo. Yes, it does, somewhat. It looks like many people sporting beards. Picknett and Prince go further. We are told that very precise comparative measurements to Leonardo’s face have been made. No they have not! Very precise measurements have been made to a drawing. Leonardo believed in ideal proportions. He wrote about them. He made drawings to demonstrate this. He used those proportions in his drawings and paintings. The best that can be said is that the face of the man on the shroud compares favorably to ideal proportions. Interestingly, other skeptics frequently argue that the shroud is a fake because the proportions of the face are unlike any real face. Similarly, they argue that the body proportions are wrong. Go figure.
There is plenty of scientific proof the Shroud of Turin is not a proto-photographic image. Among them:
- A photographic image does not contain height-field (3D) information
- There is no light direction on the Shroud image. A photograph would have light direction.
- There are no photosensitive chemical or products produced by photosensitive chemicals.
- It would be virtually
impossible to put the blood stains on and then take the picture.