The 'Salvator Mundi' - Has Playful Leonardo Left Us a Clue?

We humans are suckers for babies - of any kind. No matter how fearsome a species they will develop into as adults - Polar bear or Grizzly, Leopard or Lion - they beguile us by their cute curiosity as babies.

Their playfulness is the trait of baby animals we humans find so endearing. We recognise the antics of baby animals as being just like that of our own babies and we are hard-wired to love babies.

Sooner than our human offspring, the young of other animals lose that gambolling, tumbling sense of pleasure in just being alive. All too soon, they must knuckle down to the serious business of eating, fighting or fleeing from those who would eat them, and finding mates to fill the world with copies of themselves.

Of course, our lives are governed by the same basic program and most of us 'grow up' soon enough and leave behind the playfulness of youth. Not all of us, however. The ones who never lose that sense of play are the adults we call Artists and Scientists. The labels divide those folk into two camps but their members share a common motivator: curiosity.

For scientists, the question is 'Why is it so?'

For artists, it is 'What if...?

I was lucky enough to have landed for life in one of these camps, though had circumstances allowed it, I think I would've been just as happy in the other. Some thirty years back, I had a - very rare - flash of what seemed a genius insight. It was in a field way outside my skills base.

It was a proposal for an exchange particle that might be a useful addition to the then-current theories of how Gravity works. Although I had no training in this area at all, still it seemed a likely line of inquiry. I figured that if I could come up with this, surely people in the field must be working on it and I really wanted to find out what progress was being made.

How could I dare to enter the debate? Who would listen? I did dare. I wrote to the head of Physics at my State capital's university with an outline of my wacky idea and how I'd reached it. He actually replied, telling me of experiments which were underway around the world to find such a particle. Physicists had already given the elusive particle a name - the Graviton.

It's happening for me again, an 'Emperor's New Clothes' moment. This time it's an idea that fits within my own field of Painting. Yet this time, I'm completely at a loss as to how to test it. You see, it's about a mysterious work recently identified as by that towering genius and trickster, Leonardo Da Vinci.

Since it's no longer physically possible for me to travel, so as to go to see the original, I can only muse on printed reproductions of the painting titled 'Salvator Mundi.'

So, in hopes of getting a reply from someone who can enlighten me, I'm throwing my possibly ridiculous thought out into the ether of Cyberspace. Here goes:

In every report I've read, experts refer to an object held in the left hand of the Jesus figure as a 'globe' or as a 'sphere' of crystal, representing the world. To my eye, this is clearly a round lens, such as that which is a component of the camera obscura, which Leonardo described in his notebooks and is now thought to have utilized in making the Shroud of Turin.

Can this crystal object be the playful clue he left - out in plain sight - to another of his cryptic jokes on us all?

Dorothy Gauvin is an internationally acclaimed Australian painter in oils who specialises in an epic theme of Australia's pioneers. See images of her 'Life-Story' portraits, an ABC of homemade tools for painters with arthritis, plus tips and advice for aspiring artists and collectors on her website at

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