Scientists: Orb in the Leonardo Da Vinci painting Christ is hollow

Glass globe owned by Christ in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece Salvator Mundi is hollow, NOT solid, computer scientists say after creating the 3D version of the $ 450 million painting to explain the “craziness” of the object

  • Researchers made a virtual copy of the £ 340 million artwork as part of the research
  • The team compared their virtual copy with the original to understand the artist
  • They discovered that the sphere is actually a “realistic representation” of a hollow sphere

The “madness” of a sphere that was thought to have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci may have been resolved by a team of experts.

The oil painting, known as Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World), shows Christ with a glass sphere that “the image behind it does not seem to enlarge as expected.”

Computer scientists from the University of California, Irvine, made a virtual copy of the £ 340 million artwork in an effort to understand what the artist “had in mind.”

The type of sphere depicted should act as a convex lens, thereby increasing and vice versa the robes seen behind, but appearing with minimal distortion.

The Irvine team claims that the sphere is not solid, but a “realistic representation” of a hollow sphere – which explains the “minimal distortion” of Christ’s robes.

People take photos with a mobile phone from an oil painting of 'Salvator Mundi' by Atelier Leonardo da Vinci. For their research, researchers made a 'virtual copy' of the oil painting

People take photos with a mobile phone from an oil painting of ‘Salvator Mundi’ by Atelier Leonardo da Vinci. For their research, researchers made a ‘virtual copy’ of the oil painting

Rendering of a full sphere (B) in addition to a rendering of a hollow sphere (A). The “madness” of a sphere that was thought to have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci may have been resolved by a team of experts

Senior researcher Marco Liang said that Leonardo was aware of the way glass handles light and that his notebooks are “full of light that bounces off of different objects.”

This is one of the things that prompted the team to study the work of art in more detail – to find out “why the globe was painted the way it was”.

They used image processing software to reproduce the scene in 3D and then study how light would break through different types of orbs.

This led to the conclusion that the sphere had to be hollow for the minimal distortion of the robes, any other type of sphere would have been wrongly painted by Da Vinci.

Virtual scene arrangement in which a hand model with orb holds for the relief of the subject, which has a texture with a modified version of the painting

Virtual scene arrangement in which a hand model with orb holds for the relief of the subject, which has a texture with a modified version of the painting

Virtual scene arrangement in which a spherical hand model is placed for the relief of the subject, which is textured with a modified version of the painting

The team confirmed that the sphere that inspired the person in the painting would have had a radius of 2.16 inches and a small thickness of 0.05 inches.

They used a computer technique that was designed to create physically realistic representations of virtual scenes when evaluating the sphere.

“By synthesizing images under configurations that vary the lighting and material properties of the sphere, we have tested whether it is optically possible to produce an image that makes the sphere similar to how it appears on the painting,” the team wrote.

“Our experiments show that an optically accurate reproduction that qualitatively matches that of the painting is indeed possible with the help of materials, light sources and scientific knowledge that Leonardo da Vinci has around 1500 at its disposal.”

They tested alternative theories about the composition of the sphere, including whether it was a solid calcite ball and proved that it was “unlikely” to be anything but hollow.

The Salvator Mundi (left) and a representation of the Salvator Mundi using a hollow sphere (right). The oil painting, known as Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World), shows Christ with a glass ball that “does not seem to enlarge the image behind it as expected”

Looking behind the globe, the robes are folded so that five lines appear, the fifth does not follow the same pattern as the other – da Vinci “blurred this part of the painting.”

The team says this “strongly suggests” that he was aware of how a concave sphere would deform straight lines that pass behind it.

They also studied Leonardo Da Vinci’s notes, where he wrote extensively about the interaction between light and different objects.

They also discovered that hollow glass balls were common in paintings from that time that helped them draw the conclusion that he had painted a very precise hollow ball.

The paper is available for reading on the open platform arXiv.

WHO WAS LEONARDO DA VINCI?

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, usually Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, is one of the greatest individuals of the last millennium.

Poly-mathematics was a driving force behind the Renaissance and loved inventing, painting, sculpture, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history and cartography.

He is attributed to the development of the parachute, helicopter and tank.

He was born in modern Italy in 1452 and died in France at the age of 67.

After working as a visionary born out of wedlock, he worked in Milan, Rome, Bologna and Venice.

His most recognizable works are the Mona Lisa, the last supper, Vitruvian man.

Another piece of art, called the Salvator Mundi, sold for a $ 450.3 million (£ 343 million) world record at a Christie’s auction in New York in 2017.

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