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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The DaVinci Shroud??

As wacky theories go, this one will rank near the top of the list.

From the DailyMail.com: Is the Turin Shroud Really a Self-Portrait by Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci?

He was the ultimate Renaissance man - studying anatomy, designing a rudimentary helicopter and creating some of the most admired paintings of the age.

But could Leonardo da Vinci also have perpetrated history's greatest art forgery?

That's the suggestion of one expert, who claims that Leonardo was responsible for faking the Turin Shroud.

The relic has inspired generations of pilgrims who have flocked to see what they believe is the face of the crucified Jesus.

But it has also provoked bitter controversy after scientists carbon-dated it to the Middle Ages.

Now an American artist has entered the fray, putting forward her own theory about its origin.

Lillian Schwartz, a graphic consultant at the School of Visual Arts in New York, claims that the image is a self-portrait of Leonardo, which was made using a crude photographic technique.

Using computer scans she found that the face on the Turin Shroud and a self portrait of Leonardo da Vinci share the same dimensions. Miss Schwartz came to prominence in the 1980s when she made detailed measurements of the Mona Lisa and a Leonardo self-portrait.

To her amazement, the two faces lined up perfectly, leading her to suggest that he used a self portrait as a model for the painting.

Earlier this year she used the same technique to compare another Leonardo self-portrait with the Turin Shroud.

'It matched. I'm excited about this,' she said. 'There is no doubt in my mind that the proportions that Leonardo wrote about were used in creating this Shroud's face.'

According to a Channel Five documentary to be shown tonight, Leonardo scorched his facial features on to the linen of the Shroud using a sculpture of his face and a photographic device called a 'camera obscura'.

He would have hung the shroud's fabric over a frame in a blacked- out room and coated it with a substance to make it light-sensitive, just like photographic film.

When the sun's rays passed through a lens in one of the walls, Leonardo's 3D model would have been projected on to the material, creating a permanent image.

Shroud researcher Lynn Picknett said: 'It is spooky, it is jaw-dropping.

'The faker of the shroud had to be a heretic. He had to have a grasp of anatomy and he had to have at his fingertips a technology which would completely fool everyone until the 20th century.'

The programme points out that Leonardo was fascinated with optical equipment and his notebooks contain one of the earliest drawings of a camera obscura.

Mrs Picknett added: 'If Leonardo could have known that 500 years after he died generations of pilgrims are still crossing themselves over the image, I think he would have laughed quite a lot.'

Although the Turin Shroud remains a popular attraction, most people now concede it is a fake.

Radiocarbon dating in 1988 showed the cloth was made between 1260 and 1390. However, the image itself has not been carbon dated.

But Professor John Jackson, director of the Turin Shroud Centre of Colorado, who believes the item dates from the time of Jesus's crucifixion, dismissed the Leonardo hypothesis. 'It is based on some very poor scientific and historical scholarship,' he said.

The earliest known record of the shroud appears on a commemorative medallion struck in the mid-14th century and on display at the Cluny Museum Paris, he added.

'It clearly shows clerics holding up the shroud and is dated to around 100 years before Leonardo was born.

'There is no evidence whatsoever that Leonardo was involved in the shroud.'

The professor believes the radiocarbon dating of the shroud was wrong because the sample was contaminated.

The article leaves a lot to be desired, ignoring all the research that has been done on the Shroud since the late 1970's. From what I've heard and read, I don't think anyone credible believes the Shroud to be a fake or forgery. It's origin and 'construction' are still a mystery.

Personally, I believe the shroud is that which wrapped Christ in the tomb. It's not an article of faith, incumbent upon all Catholics to believe. But why shouldn't God leave us a miracle that helps us confirm our faith, even though it still takes faith to accept the authenticity of the Shroud?

I like the words of Barrie Schwortz (the Official Documenting Photographer for the Shroud of Turin Research Project, Inc[STURP]): "Frankly, I am still Jewish, yet I believe the Shroud of Turin is the cloth that wrapped the man Jesus after he was crucified. That is not meant as a religious statement, but one based on my privileged position of direct involvement with many of the serious Shroud researchers in the world, and a knowledge of the scientific data, unclouded by media exaggeration and hype. The only reason I am still involved with the Shroud of Turin is because knowing the unbiased facts continues to convince me of its authenticity". (Source)

The STURP is a good site detailing the studies, tests and analyses of the Shroud. Pretty cool stuff. And definitely more credible than this Lillian Schwartz person - but hey, she got to be on television, so at least she has that going for her.