Part 1
There has been much discussion in the forum about the identity of the “beloved disciple” (Jn 13:23).

Dan Brown in "The da Vinci Code" popularized the centuries old whispers that Mary Magdalene was in fact the disciple being referred to and as such, she was the person to Jesus’ right in Leonardo’s painting of “The Last Supper”. As portrayed in Brown’s novel, Teabing points out that the figure exhibits feminine features plus “the hint of a bosom”.

Regarding such characteristics in the art of the time, it has already been noted that Leonardo was the product of the Florentine School and as such incorporated the style of painting young men with feminine facial structures, expressions and arguably an occasional “hint of a bosom". Some have used the description of “gender-bending” to describe this aspect of some of Leonardo's work.

There is yet one another dimension of Leonardo's paintings that is noteworthy of keeping in mind with regard to his portrayal of young men by representing them with effeminate or “gender bending” features. The "other" dimention to which this writer refers is that Leonardo chose to paint the same face into more than one of his portrayals of a young male figure.

Compare, for example, the “face” of John the Baptist (see note 1 at the conclusion of Part 2)


...with the face of his Angel in the Flesh (see note 2 at the conclusion of Part 2)


The faces of the two paintings are unmistakably the same face. Equally unmistakable are the feminine facial characteristics in both portrayals especially when viewing the entire composition (links are provided below).

Now consider the face of “Tobias” in Leonardo’s painting Tobias and the Angel (see note 3 at the conclusion of Part 2) and notice the femininity portrayed in the facial characteristics of Tobias the “young man”

Here again we see a young man painted with feminine facial characteristics (and perhaps the “hint of a bosom” in the full painting referenced at the conclusion of Part 2?)


The purpose of these three illustrations is to demonstrate how Leonardo often painted “young men”. The goal was to document by illustration how Leonrardo typically portrayed young men with effeminate features and even those “hints of bosoms ” seen sometimes in the style of the Florentine School.

Fast-forward to the argument concerning the “feminine” facial characteristics and the “hint of a bosom” of the disciple seated to Jesus’ right in Leonardo’s “The Last Supper”. Those characteristics form the basis of the conclusion that the disciple pictured must be Mary Magdalene and not the Apostle John. As seen from the foregoing illustrations, however, the argument that the disciple pictured is female because Leonardo painted the figure with feminine facial characteristics and the suggestion of other gender-associated anatomical features cannot be maintained in the face of the fact that he regularly painted young men that way. Proponents of this argumentation must look elsewhere for support.

Part 2 - follows

Last edited by Lisa Shea; 12/30/12 07:20 AM.

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