In the wake of The Da Vinci Code, the cottage industry of historical conspiracy books exploded. I initially thought that Discovering Da Vinci’s Daughter would be a rehash of previously trotted-out tales. I was pleasantly surprised at the theories involved and really taken aback at the structure of this nonfiction work. As author Derek Bair notes on his website, “This isn't like a normal book. I'm not like a normal person. I don't try to be.”
The crux of his theories lie with his expertise in graphic arts. Bair worked with the Mona Lisa, as well as The Last Supper, looking for hidden meanings in the paintings. What he found were hidden layers underneath, use of stereo-grams, and way to view the paintings revealed only the applications of high-tech software. He also revealed the true subject of the Mona Lisa – Da Vinci’s daughter. There are some other theories, and interesting takes on Da Vinci’s life. Bair asserts that the artist may have been autistic, more specifically afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. Bair believes this because he reveals that he is also afflicted. One of the main symptoms is an obsession with a particular topic. You can see his determination in this book.
Discovering Da Vinci's Daughter is a sprawling mess at times, yet it’s intriguing in its randomness. The author flips between backstories on subjects like speed reading and training your vision to see hidden images with application to Leonardo Da Vinci’s work. It’s a novel way to approach his theories. By giving the reader the background on the mechanisms, it gives the narrative extra weight. Bair also drops in chapters, called “Interjections,” which combine personal stories with the author’s thoughts on his life and journey writing the book. I was initially taken aback by them, thinking they would pull from the theories. But they serve as an insight into a mind that works differently than most.
Part of what brought me to enjoy this work was that, although Bair was breaking into new territory and using unique methods to look at Da Vinci’s paintings, he comes across as amiable and accessible. Most importantly, he is obviously not full of himself – an unfortunate trait that clouds a lot of books you’d find under “Speculation” on your local Borders’ book shelves. His amateur passion for the subject cuts through a lot of the technical jargon and sometimes confusing theories.
Discovering Da Vinci's Daughter could have used some tighter editing. There are some typos and grammatical errors. But other than that, this is one of the more surprising and interesting books I've read about Da Vinci and the “conspiracies" surrounding his life.
Discovering Da Vinci’s Daughter is only available at Derek Bair's website.