The first segment opens wit the sale of Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi last year for a record-breaking $400 million to a Saudi prince. The show alleges that the painting is one of a series that when properly assembled and decoded will reveal “the secrets of the universe.” This leads to a potted history of Leonardo’s life and the Renaissance. After writing a bizarre conspiracy theory about the painting’s magic powers last year, William Henry travels to Florence this year on the show’s dime to speculate wildly about Leonardo’s secret knowledge. The show alleges that Leonardo was involved in unusual philosophies and various heresies that would have put him in opposition to the Catholic Church. The evidence for this, as given in the show, is a preparatory sketch for his unfinished Adoration of the Magi (c. 1480-1482) in which pillars in a vaguely Egyptian style (only because they are unfinished sketches of Roman columns lacking Corinthian detail) are seen rising from the ruins of a church. The show suggests that this meant that Leonardo originally intended to depict the resurrection of forbidden ancient knowledge. However, the traditional understanding of the painting is that the “church” is actually meant to depict the Basilica of Maxentius, which Roman legend supposedly said would stand until a virgin gave birth. Leonardo did not actually paint the existing picture; another artist painted over his preparatory under-drawing. He supposed conspiracy is nothing more than the difference between two artists’ interpretations.
The second segment repeats material from the 2014 Leonardo episode in which the show alleges that Leonardo contacted space aliens during the two years of his life for which records are too sparse to trace his activities. In 2014, the show claimed that Leonardo had entered a cave and walked through a star gate where he arrived in the modern world and took notes. This time, they aren’t quite sure about the star gate and instead claim that he might have met aliens in the cave or even had psychic dreams while in the cave. They allege that Leonardo’s genius shows that he received knowledge beams from aliens, in keeping with their longstanding allegation that the ability to think represents a connection to the space aliens’ Akashic Record.
The third segment looks at supposed hidden messages in The Last Supper, notably the stupid claim popularized in the Da Vinci Code, from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, that the figure of the Apostle John is secretly Mary Magdalene, identified by conspiracy theorists as Jesus’ wife. John was typically depicted as a beardless youth, so there is nothing unusual in the painting. But the show instead rehearses the Holy Blood argument about the Holy Grail being Mary Magdalene’s womb and the Holy Bloodline, claims that go back to the nineteenth century and which grew out of medieval French localization of a cult of Mary Magdalene near Marseilles. These claims have not gained any factual support since and were thoroughly debunked in the days of the Da Vinci Code fiasco, but David Childress adds the complication that he believes that the Bloodline is actually alien DNA.
The fourth segment takes us to Lecce, Italy to hear about an even more secret code in the Last Supper. The hypothesis, proposed by the Italian computer technician Giovanni Maria Pala in 2007, is that the pieces of bread on the table represent musical notes which could then be played. Art historians were intrigued, but divided whether music was intended or whether Leonardo merely used harmonic proportions that are similar to the harmonies found in music. Giorgio Tsoukalos tells us that sound can bring us to altered states of consciousness and contact with otherworldly beings. The implication, which isn’t explicitly stated so much as suggested, is that listening to Leonardo’s music will let us communicate with space aliens. However, when they play the sounds, I experienced no message from space aliens, and I assume you did not either. If you did, you probably should call Giorgio Tsoukalos. Rather than explain why the music doesn’t actually contact space aliens, the show instead talks about the use of sound in space exploration, and William Henry talks about the musical tones the spaceship plays in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which is fiction. The narrator suggests, finally, that the musical notes were meant to “teach humanity” how to “communicate with its extraterrestrial ancestors.” They did not explain how this brief, rather bland composition does this any better than any other piece of music. How did Leonardo know that they respond best to this music and not, say, polka? I guess it was the elevator music playing in the cave on route to the future.
The final segment gawks at Leonardo’s final painting, a coy portrait of John the Baptist in which the mostly nude young man points up at the sky. The show ends in the stupidest possible way. Childress tells us that if you mirror the picture and then run it through computer enhancements, a dark spot on the picture can form the eyes of a Grey alien. (Imaginary mirror aliens were a feature of the 2014 episode, and this claim is a nod to that dumb segment.) The final conclusion is that Leonardo’s paintings contain codes to teach us that we can communicate with aliens, but that they don’t actually communicate with aliens, so the whole hour was a big waste. We never do find out how to phone a Grey.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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