The Da Vinci Code: Chapter 21

Summary: Sophie surmises that her grandfather’s “final words” are not, actually, his final words; rather, the Mona Lisa anagram is probably instructing her to look at that painting for a further message. She recalls her first visit with Saunière to the painting, when she was a girl. Saunière had hinted to his granddaughter that he knew why the lady in the famous portrait was smiling, but refused to tell Sophie more, only admonishing her, “Life is filled with secrets. You can’t learn them all at once.” Now, after instructing Langdon on how to exit the Louvre, Sophie begins making her way to the gallery in the Denon Wing where the Mona Lisa hangs. As Langdon is about to leave, however, he realizes, “Sophie was supposed to break [her grandfather’s] anagram on her own,” and that realization, as well as something Langdon suddenly understands about the letters “P.S.” in Saunière’s message that compels him to dash back upstairs, in search of Sophie.

Analysis: Saunière could just as well have been speaking of Brown’s novel as of the Mona Lisa when he told Sophie, “Life is filled with secrets. You can’t learn them all at once” (p. 109). In this chapter, Brown hints at yet another layer of meaning behind Saunière’s message, a layer that causes “a career’s worth of symbology and history [to come] crashing down around” Langdon (p. 112). Typically, though, Brown creates suspense by shifting to another setting (in the following chapter) before revealing the truth.
The Mona Lisa has, of course, been the subject of scholarly attention and popular speculation for centuries. A Cosmos magazine report in 2006 summarized the painting’s historical background as well as intriguing, recent revelations about it uncovered by 3-D laser imaging: “The real Mona Lisa had three children. Da Vinci was commissioned by wealthy Florentine businessman Francesco del Giocondo to paint his wife between 1503 and 1506 after the birth of their second child, but he kept it and worked on it until his death, likely changing her hair and other features. In the original [version of the painting], the subject gripped her chair more tightly, and she is not resting against the back of her chair, as some believed, but sitting upright, the scans showed. Researchers also gleaned insights about the Da Vinci’s painting technique, including his sfumato or smoke technique of soft, heavily shaded modeling [a technique which Sophie and Saunière discuss in the novel—p. 109], said [project leader Bruno] Mottin. ‘There is no special mystery in the painting like in The Da Vinci Code,’ he said. ‘But, in that painting, Leonardo tried to capture the essence of life … It embodies all his skills … That is the true mystery weve uncovered’” (