Book Review: Leonardo da Vinci’s Musical Gifts and Jewish Connections by Giovanni Maria Pala with Loredana Mazzarella
If you go looking for something, you're likely to find it. This adage applies to trouble, God, love, and secret codes. In the case of secret codes embedded in works of art, how do you even know to look for it? Ah, there's the rub.
Author Giovanni Maria Pala, a musicologist from Italy (near Rome), tells us that Leonardo's involvement with music, "…probably led to his decision to conceal a musical phrase within his painting of The Last Supper. While I was looking for that music…" When I read that line, I stopped and made a note in the margin to the author, "How did you know to look?" I continued on throughout the short (124 pages), easy-to-read book, searching in vain for the answer to the question that would provide a solid foundation for the premise of Leonardo da Vinci's Musical Gifts and Jewish Connections. Then on the heels of this unanswered question comes this from Mr. Pala, "Two things, however, are almost certain: that Caterina (Leonardo's mother) was a very beautiful woman and that she was Jewish."
Mr. Pala's bio states that he is a musician and a musicologist. He is no salesman. In sales, any claim a salesman makes is just that — a claim. It remains a claim until the salesperson offers evidence to support it. The evidence offered that Leonardo's mother was beautiful is the author's statement that Leonardo himself was an extremely attractive young man. He offers no proof of Caterina's ethnicity. To be fair, there is a bibliography listing over 60 items. There is no annotation and all the references are in Italian. That seems incongruous for a book printed in English. I did some research of my own online and discovered two opposing published opinions. One paper has information that she was "probably" a Russian Jew. On the other hand, another researcher finds that she was a slave from the region of Constantinople, most likely Azerbaijani, and in fact, a Muslim. Pala also presents evidence that Leonardo's fingerprint showed signs unique to those of Arabic descent. Oy vey!
The chapters of Leonardo da Vinci's Musical Gifts and Jewish Connections alternate with odd numbered chapters dedicated to Leonardo's story, his history, experience as a musician, and finally a new interpretation of The Last Supper. Even numbered chapters cover the search for the secret code that lets us "hear" this work of art for the first time! One chapter is devoted to what the authors say is an important piece of evidence to support their theory of hidden music in the painting — there is evidence of an organ in the church whose wall hosts the famous frieze. Pala and his co-author, Loredana Mazzarella (his wife) also tell us how they found a secret prayer embedded in this famous painting. The soft bound book arrives in a beautifully illustrated gift box, accompanied by a bonus DVD. The DVD only lasts about 12 minutes and includes a performance of the decoded requiem repeated several times.
Would I buy this book? No. When I connected the dots, I got the music to LSU's "Tiger Rag".Powered by Sidelines