leonardo da vinci

An orb and Leonardo da Vinci: The Salvator Mundi Painting Solved

Leonardo da Vinci, the artist of the famous Mona Lisa and Salvator Mundi painting, is a man of mysteries. He was more than a painter. He was an avid engineer, scientist, sculptor and an architect with deep knowledge about science and astronomy. The alien theories, the striking symbolism theories and more out-of-the world speculations about his work are being debated up till now. One such puzzle is the Salvator Mundi painting

The Salvator Mundi Painting
Salvator Mundi
The Salvator Mundi painting

The Salvator Mundi painting was created by da Vinci somewhere between 1490-1500. It is the world’s most expensive painting, priced at 450 million US dollars. No, Mona Lisa isn’t the most expensive one. Deep search can tell you that. The image depicts a man, presumably Jesus Christ, holding in his hand a spherical ball like structure. Nothing mysterious about the painting as of now. Okay. So what was solved?

To understand how scientists solved the puzzle, we have to look up the problem. As I had already stated, da Vinci was a man of science and had genuine knowledge about it. It can be proved by looking at his works which deceivingly represent scientific facts. Salvator Mundi means ‘savior of the earth’. So it can be interpreted that the glass orb that Jesus is holding symbolizes the earth.

The problem behind

What is wrong about this painting is that, any 10th grader would know that a convex lens would provide an inverted, magnified, reversed image of an object placed behind it. The glass orb must act like a convex lens and thus do the same. But if you observe carefully, you can see that it appears as if those properties are defied and a clear, non-reversed image of Jesus’ hand and clothing is visible behind the glass orb.

You may argue that any painter would be ignorant of the science behind a convex lens. But Leonardo da Vinci was not ‘any painter’. He was a polymath of the High Renaissance! He has portrayed much more complex scientific principles in his work than that of a convex lens. There is no plausible way that da Vinci couldn’t have known the laws of optical physics. So why did he do that?


The puzzle was solved by computer scientists from the University of California, Irvine. The painting was 3d virtualized to study about how the various material orbs would appear under different refractive conditions. Many materials with which orbs could be designed were taken into consideration. At last it was concluded that the spherical orb was not a solid mass, instead a hollow orb. Hollow orb does not behave like a convex lens. It displays the image as it is, thus adhering with the painting. They predicted that the glass of the orb in Salvator Mundi was a fraction of an inch thick thus accounting for the quality.

Did Leonardo da Vinci actually paint it?

Many critics claim that the painting is not actually da Vinci’s. They point that da Vinci is more of a scientist to commit such trivial errors and thus proving that he did not paint it at all and that it was painted by a ‘lesser’ painter. But many say that, such a clever installation of the orb itself is a proof of authenticity. In order to think about hollow orbs and paint it during the 1500s would take immense intellect, which can only be done by the polymath himself.

Leo constellation?


three dots
The three dots in the glass orb
Orange iris
The orange iris of Jesus in the painting

As if the Salvator Mundi has not enough controversies, one more intriguing detail is the three dots painted in the glass orb giving it a mystical appearance. The three dots are said to represent the constellation of the sign Leo. What does it have to do anything with this painting? Well, if you observe the iris of Jesus, a faint orange glow emanates from within. The orange iris imitates Lion’s eyes. And thus the constellation, many say. Some also relate to the fact that his name Leonardo is the reason behind. However there is no concrete explanation behind.

Hope I kindled some curiosity within you today. I leave you with one of my favorite da Vinci’s quote:

To develop a complete mind:

Study the science of art;

Study the art of science.

Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.

-Leonardo da Vinci