I mentioned in the previous post that the study and placement of hands was important to Leonardo da Vinci in his work. It is claimed that Leonardo may have suffered with ulnar palsy, or what is known as “claw hand”. I posted about this diagnosis at the link below.
Botticelli, Mantegna and Ghirlandaio are three artists who portrayed Leonardo with a clawed hand and Giorgio Vasari made reference to this disability in his Battle of Marciano fresco. He shows Leonardo’s right hand gripping the wedge-shaped flask while refilling the musket with gunpowder. Notice also the horse-tail at the side of the flask. This is a reference to the flask also representing the shape of a Greek harp or lyre. Leonardo made a similar instrument in the shape of a horse head as a gift for Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. This gift is also alluded to elsewhere in the fresco.
The hand also represents a crab, the fingers its legs. An eye is depicted in the corner of the pouch between the thumb and forefinger. The crab feature is also part of a group of disguised creatures listed as forbidden food in the Book of Leviticus, written in Hebrew from right to left. Leonardo was known to write with his left hand, possibly because of the abnormality in his right hand. He generally wrote from right to left on the page in a style known as mirror-writing.
Having pointed out in my previous post the connection between Leonardo’s musket and his painting of the Lady with an Ermine, (the ermine is a type of weasel, one of the forbidden foods) are there any other Leonardo’s paintings to be found in this section of Vasari’s fresco?
Let’s look at the honey or gold-coloured sleeve covering Leonardo’s left arm. Could this be a pointer to the rippling folds in the gold-coloured sleeves of the famous Mona Lisa painting? Cerca Trova (Seek and Find).
Another painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci is the controversial Salvatore Mundi, sold at auction in 2017 for $450 million U.S. Could there be any indication that this work features in Vasari’s Marciano fresco. I believe there is.
My understanding is that the Salvatore Mundi is a mirror reflection of Leonardo. Observe the globe held in the claw hand of Christ’s left hand, but in reality Leonardo’s right hand if we keep in mind it is a “mirror” portrait. And so the hand raised in blessing is therefore Leonardo’s left hand, and perhaps a pointer to the Salvatore Mundi portrait being made by “the hand of Leonardo”.
There is another reference to the Salvatore Mundi elsewhere in this section of Vasari’s fresco, and to an earlier painting by Leonardo: The Annunciation. More about this in a future post.
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