Look Again at Leonardo’s Evangelist

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IN 2003, the controversy over The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown arose from, among other things, the book’s claim that the Catholic Church encodes forbidden knowledge in its images. An instance of this secret practice is supposedly how, in Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, there appears to be a blonde female figure seated at Christ’s right that we have always mistakenly accepted as John the Evangelist. Brown’s novel posits that the figure is really Mary Magdalene, the woman with whom, according to some traditions, Jesus was sexually intimate.

Officially, the Catholic Church denies any such relationship. Still, it contradicts Mr. Brown only in terms of Church history. On the other hand, Leonardo did encode the painting— but not to hide secret Church knowledge. My contention is that Leonardo encoded his own particular homosexuality in the painting. The androgynous figure inserted into one of the most sacred images of Catholic theology attests to the artist’s attraction to the youth who’s pictured there.

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