Music Found in da Vinci’s “Last Supper”


Everyone loves a good mystery. Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” was a runaway best-seller for a reason, after all. But the latest Leonardo da Vinci-related mystery seems to have a bit more credibility. This time, an Italian musician and computer technician claims to have discovered music in da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”

Giovanni Maria Pala says that by overlaying a standard five-line musical staff over the major parts of the painting, he has found musical notes in the placement of the loaves of bread and the disciples’ hands. Pala’s discovery isn’t without an historical base, either – some people have long held that da Vinci had left a piece of music in the painting, hidden from plain sight.

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When Pala first drew the musical staff over the painting, the positions of the loaves and hands looked remarkably like musical notes – except that the resulting “song” made no sense. Until, that is, Pala applied da Vinci’s own idiosyncracy to it: he played it backwards.

By reading the notes right-to-left, the piece of music that results sounds like a requiem, which is perfectly fitting for the scene. Pala says it “sounds best on a pipe organ, the instrument most commonly used in Leonardo’s time for spiritual music.” So although you won’t hear the piece just by looking at the painting in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan, you might just be looking at the first painting with its very own soundtrack.

For more on this story, see this article. This is Pala’s website (in Italian) for the book he’s just released about the music in “The Last Supper,” and this is what the music he found sounds like.

Photo by: Krebs’ Class