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CHARACTERS (Leonardo da Vinci)


Article and photos by Elena Minari -

To visit the s'Upper Room please contact Elena Minari -


1) The S’Upper Room ~
The actual location of the room serving as a model for the set of Leonardo’s Last Supper.

2) Leonardo concealed the identity of Mona Lisa in a semi-stereographic sfumato, akin to a horizontal Anamorphosis

The S’Upper Room
In a Tuscany villa, formerly owned by the Machiavelli family, the chamber utilized by Leonardo as a model for the ambience of his Last Supper has been identified.
Leonardo and Machiavelli were known to be friends. They had been working together at some important projects.
Leonardo must have visited the Machiavelli property, situated in the Chianti area, on several occasions.
During one of these occasions, he spotted the large room that he would select as the ideal setting for his Cenacolo.

In the Chianti region of Italy, not far from Florence, the room that served as a model for Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper has been identified.
The room belongs to a large stylish villa dating back to Renaissance times. The large property is known for having been Nicolò Machiavelli’s summer residence during his exiled years. History says that Nicolò and Leonardo knew each other: they had been working conjointly at a few projects, including the planning for the fresco of the Anghiari Battle, and the curbing of the Arno river.

We would reasonably expect Leonardo to visit Nicolò from time to time.
The large “upper room” of the villa was visited by Master Leonardo and spotted as a good model for his own Supper.
Above is a photo of the villa’s upper room.
Our S’Upper Room is smaller in scale, compared to the room depicted in the Cenacolo,  but the ratio is preserved: as a master of geometry and perspectives, Leonardo would have easily made the room proportionally larger and  fit to host such an important event as the Last Supper.

The last restoration of the mural by Pinin Brambilla, dating 1999, reportedly included no restoration of the original scansion of the wood rafters. Indeed, the two ceilings have different box scansion, but the styles are similar.

As important evidence, an old essay featuring Leonardo’s Last Supper mentions that, in the background window behind Christ’s head, a tower described as of probable medieval style had been detected. The tower is clearly visible in the close-up photo above. 

The landscape on the background of the Last Supper reveals a bright expanse of hills, typical of the Tuscany’s slopes.
There, upon close observation, a tower of medieval architectural design is still clearly visible.

From the location here described (where the exiled Machiavelli wrote some of his most important works, including his renowned The Prince, and where from he would be seeing his forbidden and cherished city) one would just need to climb the pietra serena staircase leading to the Upper Room, face the north row of window-doors (indeed the room has two sets of three windows/doors, one facing north and the other facing south, the direction towards which our most famous diners would seem to look if we were to watch them from the outside balcony of the villa) and there, behind the overgrown tree-line on the northern horizon, in the Florence cradle, we spot the silhouette of the beautiful tower of Giotto in Santa Maria del Fiore.

Indeed, from the main entrance viale of the villa itself, we are allowed a perpendicular sight of what, in Leonardo’s mural/painting of the Last Supper, corresponds to the horizontal background line. From there, on a clear-sky day, the Giotto Campanile in Santa Maria del Fiore can still be seen.

View of Florence from the Chianti hills. The shot was taken from the lane leading to the main entrance of our Chianti villa.
The Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, along with the Giotto tower, can be detected in the cradle of the city of Florence, beyond the two rows of hills distancing our location.


• The embroidery design chosen for the tablecloth of the Supper has been described as characteristic of the Siena region, south of Florence, the direction of our villa.

• Detail of the ceiling of the Upper Room. On the wall, below the ceiling, one can see the metal rods meant to hold the tapestry originally hanging in the Upper Room. The last restoration of Leonardo’s Supper, by Pinin Brambilla, actually unveiled, on both the right and the left walls, some hanging tapestry, characterized by a typical millefleur motif. According to ancient studies, the millefleur motif is connected to the Johannite tradition, to which Leonardo was said to belong. It is notheworthy that St. John the Baptist is also Florence’s patron saint.

Below: detail of the Tongerlo copy, showing the tapestry with the millefleur motif on the wall.

• A tea cup from a local restaurant depicts an old print of a Florence vista, with the Giotto Campanile mounted by a strange pointed peak, similar to the one still visible in the background of the Last Supper.

The Setting

Upon our accurate study of one of the most learned contemporary texts on the masterpiece, Leonardo’s Incessant Last Supper, by eminent scholar and leonardista  Leo Steinberg (Zone Books – New York – 2001), we are met with the following considerations:

“Apparently Leonardo downstaged the table, so that the vacated chamber is left with nothing to house, as if it was a  spacious hall on which the diners have turned their backs”. (quote)

Steinberg argues that the diners seem to be posed at the brink of the forestage, nearly ejected - hardly a reasonable representation of a table inside a room – adding that, out of the innumerable copies, “few condoned Leonardo’s fantasy of a table divorced from a plunging backspace … the room all set to be left alone.” (quote)

However, the riddle is naturally solved when we look at the structure of our Chianti room.

The S’Upper Room: south wall and north wall

In the case of our Tuscany villa, by staging the diners in the S’Upper Room we would naturally have them face yet another set of windows, and not just a wall. In fact, the diners in the painting receive light also from a frontal source, and not just from their back.

In his book, Steinberg proceeds to explain that Leonardo’s spatial illusion seem to reveal an interior on a raised level opening wide like a deepened exedra or extended alcove. Again, we find that the S’Upper Room matches with the description.

Considering the lights at the back, there seems to be a controversy, among scholars, on whether they are windows, or one door between narrow windows, or even three doors, as in the case of our Room.

Finally, we find a remark about a 1954 post-World War II restoration of Leonardo’s mural by Mauro Pellicioli who, upon completing his cleaning of the landscape background, discovered traces of a river’s blue water,
credibly the Arno River in Florence.

Quoting Leo Steinberg:

“… Leonardo so downstaged the table that the vacated chamber is left with nothing to house. A spacious hall on which the diners have turned their backs and from which, posed at the brink of the forestage, they are nearly ejected – hardly a reasonable representation of a table inside a room…
Few condoned Leonardo’s fantasy of a table divorced from a plunging backspace, with mess hall and diners in mutual repulsion, the company wanting no part of the room, the room all set to be left alone.”
(pag 115)

(my note: unless they were facing another set of windows!)

“… Leonardo’s spatial illusion impinges directly on the hall we are in. It reveals an interior on a raised level, opening wide like a deepened exedra or extended alcove..” (pag 119)

“… The lights at the back…: we can leave them unquestioned, or mystify them by asking whether they are windows, or one door between narrow windows, or even three doors. The problem is trivial, but the record of copies and glosses is surprisingly controversial.” (note 13)

note 13: “The actual mural, along with the evidence of some early copies, partly dismisses the problem, since it shows the left-hand windows with a limiting sill, which, incidentally, aligns itself elegantly with the neckline of St. John’s tunic. The Tongerlo copy raises the sill and invents another such for the right-hand window. Birago’s engraving records no window sill anywhere. The lower limit of the outer openings were evidently felt to be variable and unclear.
(pag. 133)

“In 1954, when Mauro Pellicioli completed his post-World War II restoration of Leonardo’s mural… cleaning the landscape background.. discovered traces of a river’s blue water…” (pag. 220)

Below: contemporary view of the garden of the Chianti villa from the south windows of the S’Upper Room.

The Villa


Copyright© 1997-2007 Cinzia Elena Defendenti. All rights reserved.
All scripts, images (besides Leonardo’s Cenacolo and the Tongerlo copy) and design elements are protected by copyright. Copyright is not transferable with the sale of this product. The buyer is not entitled to reproduction rights.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA

Anamorphic Mona Lisa

The word anamorphic is from the Greek "ana" (again) and "morphe" (form). It refers to images that are so heavily distorted that they are hard to recognize without the use of a mirror, or by moving around for using one’s periferic or fuzzied sight.
Anamorphic art has been known from the Middle Ages. European painters of early Renaissance were fascinated by linear anamorphic images, in which stretched pictures are formed again when viewed on a slant.

Anamorphic art is the process of greatly distorting an image only to have it revealed either from a single vantage point or from its reflection on a mirrored surface. A cylindrical mirror is the most common form, but reflective cones and pyramids have also been used. The surprising appearance of the undistorted reflection or image is almost always met with wonder and delight. 

It was Leonardo Da Vinci who first experimented with anamorphic perspective, and the first known example of an anamorphic drawing is an eye that he made in 1485.

This anamorphic drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, ca 1485, is the earliest known example of an anamorphosis. Although there are no notes accompanying this drawing by Leonardo, he does refer to the mechanics of anamorphic drawing in his treatise on painting, “And if you were to paint this on a wall in front of which you can move freely, the effect would appear out of proportion to you because of the great difference OR and RQ [the intervals]. This happens because the eye is so close to the wall that the painting appears foreshortened. And if you wished to paint that, however, your perspective would have to be viewed through a single hole.”

During the Renaissance, artists who experimented with perspective made great advances and perfected the techniques of stretching and distorting images in various ways using the geometry of perspective.

In the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries anamorphic images became extremely popular, and supplied an ideal means of camouflaging dangerous political statements, heretical ideas, and even erotic images.  Anamorphic images were widely reproduces in prints, and in a more permanent form adorned the walls of monasteries.  Hans Holbein (1497 –1543), the great court painter to Henry VIII created perhaps the most famous and striking example of a hidden anamorphosis.

(Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York, Fall 2004)

… Many writings confirm how Leonardo's interest in optical theory led him to explore curved projection methods as alternatives to linear perspective. He makes
it clear that these alternatives only come into question under extreme conditions and recommends that these extreme conditions be avoided in order that linear perspective can be used. However, he makes no attempt to reconcile his theory of vision with his theory
of representation, as we might be tempted to assume he should.

(Kim H. Veltman  - Perspective, Anamorphosis and Vision)

Anamorphosis of Leonardo himself. To be seen with the help of a cylindrical mirror.

“The boundaries of bodies are the least of all things. The proposition is proved to be true, because the boundary of a thing is a surface, which is not part of the body contained within that surface; nor is it part of the air surrounding that body, as is proved in its place. But the lateral boundaries of these bodies is the line forming the boundary of the surface, which line is of invisible thickness. Wherefore O painter! do not surround your bodies with lines, and above all when representing objects smaller than nature; for not only will their external outlines become indistinct, but their parts will be invisible from distance.”

- Leonardo da Vinci

And here comes Mona Lisa:

Relax your eyes, breathe.

Just stare with an open mind at the forehead of the Mona Lisa. Stare at the base of her nose.

An inverted ampulla, a perfectly rounded phial, a conception-vase stemming from the Lady’s Mind appears to expand upwards from between her eyes.

Soon, the face of a little girl stands out, straight, an oval shaped frame with rosy mouth and nose. Her eyes are positioned at the two darker spots of Lisa’s fine ribbon.
Her hair curls up a bit, on both sides, where Lisa’s occipital bone rounds the most.

She is the Alchemical Child, and she is contained within the Mystical Womb of the Mother, the Sacred Chalice, the Hermetic Bowl, the Basin. In Leonardo’s gnostic view, Mona Lisa is also Sophia, manifesting from her forehead her daughter Zoe.

(Mona Lisa is also the perfect androgyne, the ideal totality at its highest elevation. Try the try of covering half of her face vertically, on one side, and you will see a man. Cover the other half, and you will see a woman.)

According to some, the word Graal comes from the latin Gradalis, indicating a cup, a vase, a chalice, or a basin.
In mythology, these objects are all symbols of the fertile womb of the Great Mother, Earth, bearers of life and abundance. For the Celts, the cup of life is the ‘Cauldron of Dagda’, brought to the material world by the Tuatha De Danaan, otherworldly representatives of the ‘small people’, the magic people dwelling in the forests: fairies, gnomes and pixies. Many celtic heroes are dealing with magic cauldrons. The christian tradition mentions at least two sacred containers: the Chalice of Eucharesty and, surprisingly, the Virgin Mary. In the ‘Loreto Litany’, ancient prayer dedicated to Mary, she is described as vas spirituale, vas honorabile, vas insigne devotionis, ‘spiritual vase, honorable vase and vase of unique devotion’.

Within the womb (vase) of the Mother, divinity has become manifested..

The real Holy Grail is in our DNA.
We all are in the Blood Line.

It is said that Jesus and Mary met and procreated.
Whether a real Sarah was born is not that relevant, after all. Furthermore, in the Pistis Sophia, Mary is described as sterile. What was born was the beginning of a Divine Feminine principle that was never allowed to develop due to repression by the churches.
Sarah the Egyptian is the icon of the hidden, repressed knowledge of the Origin.

The Origin being the Alchemical White Powder Gold, the Elixir of Eternal Life, the Rebis, the Secret of Resurrection, the Mean of Ascension, the Golden Ratio, the alchemical meeting of two souls incarnating divine perfection.

We have all received Divine Legacy.

CHARACTERS (Leonardo da Vinci)


(c) Article and photos by Elena Minari -
To visit the s'Upper Room please contact Elena Minari - -