The Ridiculous Picknett and Prince Photograph Theory

lynnpicknett_cliveprince When Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince get into the news, as they have recently with their new book, The Masks of Christ: Behind the Lies and Cover-ups about the Life of Jesus, invariably new discussion arises about their proposal that Leonardo da Vinci created the image on the shroud using a medieval proto-camera.

Historian Dan Scavone comments on the Picknett and Prince argument that the image was made using a magic lantern, a simple projector, and light-sensitive chromium salts in an egg white medium.

The argument that history’s proto-photo was a life- sized photo(!) on a fourteen-foot cloth(!) that was a composite(!): double corpse with daubed-on blood and, in separate processes, Leonardo’s own head front and back, is a priori far-fetched. The premise is more demanding of faith than is the authenticity of the Shroud. I am led to ask why Leonardo has left us his self-portrait in red chalk and not his photo, and why he would use another body when Vasari notes that his own physique was near-perfect, and everybody knows his exorbitant vanity.

Scavone also writes:

This question leads the authors to another assertion: Leonardo was a member of a secret society called the Priory of Sion, which esteemed John the Baptist over Jesus. Therefore, the apparent disembodied head visible on the Shroud man was Leonardo’s cipher for the decapitated Baptist. Leonardo’s use of his own photo, they argue, was owing to his inordinate vanity, the same that prompted him to encode his own face in his famous portrait of Mona Lisa, wife of Francesco de Giocondo. This theory was confirmed by Lillian Schwartz of Bell Laboratories and Dr. Digby Quested of London, who discovered that it matched up perfectly with the major lines of Leonardo’s face in the above-mentioned self-portrait at age sixty. Picknett writes “Leonardo was capable of subtly building his own image into that of his masterpieces; if he had done so with the Mona Lisa, why not with the Shroud?”

There is also plenty of evidence from science that demonstrates that this is not a photograph. Were it, it would not produce a 3D image. A photograph contains only reflective light data. It does not contain spatial data.

6 thoughts on “The Ridiculous Picknett and Prince Photograph Theory”

  1. After reading this article I can´t help making some comments about Picknett and Prince´s ridiulous theory about the Shroud image.
    1- Everybody knows that the first Shroud display in western Europe was in 1356 in a Lirey church in France ; Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452 .
    How could he make such an artifact before even beiing born?
    The theory that Duke Louis of Savoy later ordered him to make a more perfect Shroud is preposterous.
    2- Their theory deals with a lot of inaccuracies , just to mention:
    If the photographic emulsion had egg Shroud image fibers shoud test positive for proteins- that doesn´t happen and the late chemist Raymond Rogers submited image fibers to Pyrolysis Mass Spectrometry which discarded nitrogenous residues.

    There were no refrigerators at that time so the tortured and flogged bodies Leonardo «got» would have rotten before such images formed on the cloth.

    The face of the Man of the Shroud has the features of a
    semitic man- that´s the opinion of anthropologic experts ; Leonardo was an italian.

    2- The image of the Shroud is not a photograph

    Photographs reult from reflected light and from analysis of highlights and shadows an image expert can infer light direction.
    In the Shroud image there is no light directionality it just seems that the light or whatever made the image comes from the body itself !
    A face in a photograph has sharp contours ; the face of the Man of the Shroud has no distinct boundaries fading into colorless areas.
    Photographic image of a body is always an «albedo » image it don´t has 3D encoded data unveiled by a VP-8 scan .
    How can these authors explain that it was possible to produce an hologram from such a photograph?
    It´s not possible to obtain Holograms from 2D images as Dr Petrus Soons states and the hologram of the Man of the Shroud had missing data that produced hole-like defects explained by the israeli botanist expert Professor Avinoam Danim as places where flowers were laid over the body !
    They don´t deal either with the fact that underneath blood stains there is no image. EXPLAIN ALL THIS STUFF Ms Picknett and Mr. Prince !!!
    If you want to read a detailed explanation just go to Barrie Schwortz´s wonderful website ( ) and search scientific papers his article « Is the Shroud of Turin a Medieval Photograph? »
    Some years ago, before getting interested in Shroud studies I bought their book Templar Revelation but soon I realized that their claims were absolutely ludicrous and I didn´t finish it and it is still in my bookshelf.
    It´s just time waste to read such books.


    Maria da Glória

  2. Thank you so much for this article! I’ve just been watching a ‘documentary’ that promotes this idea,and by the end wanted to hurl things at the screen.They kept saying Leonardo’s face was a ‘perfect match’ for the face on the shroud which to my eyes was absolute bullshit.Add to the fact that there exists a letter by a priest during the medieval period that the shroud was fake and that he had located the artist leads me to cry,”Uncle!”.They like the theory because it’s sexy and novel and gets people who have no interest in the often tedious and confusing archeological sciences interested in what they have to say.I knew I couldn’t be the only one who knew the whole theory was dodgy.Thank you!

  3. Read the book, people. They offer theories and they are better than almost every psuedo-scientific explanation for why it is not a hoax.
    Anna67, for example, the letter by the priest is part of Vatican record on the Shroud. Everyone knows that.
    Maria, all of those theories you describe have not held up to scientific scrutiny and none were done in the same scientific methodology as the original examination.

    1. Ridiculous…she just told you Leonardo was born almost 100 years after the shroud was first exhibited…which theories exactly didn’t held up to scientific scrutiny?

    2. Robert Burns: “Anna67, for example, the letter by the priest is part of Vatican record on the Shroud. Everyone knows that.”

      That is incorrect and is a popular error promoted by skeptics and anti-authenticists. It was first popularised by two Catholic scholars about 1905 as an attempt to discredit Secondo Pia’s photographs of 1898. Herbert Thurston was a Jesuit scholar, and was assisted in his research by Canon Ulysse Chevalier. These two gentlemen seemed to have had an agenda of mythologising traditional beliefs, following a Germanic trend, whereas the photographs were strong evidence that the gospel records were reasonably factual. They produced a paper creating the impression that the draft of Bishop Pierre D’Arcis he originally intended to send to anti-Pope Clement VII at Avignon had in fact been dispatched. D’Arcis had his own financial problems to repair his cathedral and was put out that pilgrims were diverted by the Shroud exhibitions at Lirey. Also he may well have been confused by reports that the Shroud had in fact been copied, notably to replace its being taken from Bensancon. Clement VII ordered D’Arcis to perpetual silence on the matter under threat of excommunication.

      The dishonesty of the two clerics in their massaging the evidence in this affair, Thurston and Chevalier, is set out in a paper: “THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE SHROUD”; By Jack Markwardt; 2001.
      It is a fascinating read.

  4. Daveb: “The dishonesty of the two clerics in their massaging the evidence in this affair, Thurston and Chevalier, is set out in a paper: “THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE SHROUD”; By Jack Markwardt; 2001.”

    They were not dishonest, Canon Chevalier was considered to be the most cultured man in Europe, Father Thurston was a well-known scholar in England.
    Just many people with these qualifications are interested in the Shroud today?

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