The sphere of the «Salvator Mundi» is hollow: the mystery unveiled by the «Maya» system

The mystery of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) continues to fascinate. And this, even though the celebrations for the 500 years of his death are just over. To raise interest (and not only in the artistic and critics community), once again, the Salvator Mundi (about 1499) the most expensive work in the world, acquired in 2017 at Christie’s in New York for 450.3 million dollars, but also perhaps the most mysterious work by Leonardo (perhaps even more than the Mona Lisa): mysterious the author (who may or may not be Leonardo), mysterious the buyer (for a long time it was thought he could be an Arab emir, only to discover later that it would be acquired by the Department of culture and tourism of the United Arab Emirates of Abu Dhabi), mysterious the place where it is currently preserved (perhaps a bank vault, maybe a yacht).

An article published in the January 2 issue of the MIT Technology Review, the magazine of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, puts back the Salvator Mundi under the spotlight thanks to the University of California team’s research, led by Marco Liang, which would have discovered how the glass orb which Christ holds in his left hand (and that would represent the celestial sphere) would not be a solid but rather a hollow sphere with a radius of 6.8 centimeters, but a thickness of 1.3 mm, and that Leonardo would have painted it at a distance of 25 centimeters from the body of the Salvator Mundi, while the point of view of the artist would have been at 90 centimeters from the subject. To help Liang and colleagues, it is supposed to be Maya, a system of 3D modeling and animation.

A crucial role in this assertion, is played by the folds of the garments of Christ: four of them are laid as a fan converging to the center of the sphere (which might suggest a solid structure), while Leonardo has obscured this part of the painting in which the fifth fold enters the sphere, hinting that it was well aware of the way in which a hollow sphere distorts the straight lines passing behind it.

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