Summary: As he and Sophie look upon the Mona Lisa, Langdon reflects on his knowledge of the painting. Essentially, he believes its significance lies not in the many wild speculative theories spun about it over the years, but in its perfect blending of the masculine and feminine principles. The subject’s physical posture, the uneven horizon behind her, even the painting’s name—an anagram of Amon (the male Egyptian fertility god) and L’Isa, an ancient pictogram for Isis (the female Egyptian fertility goddess)—all point to her status as a symbol of the perfectly balanced male and female principles, in art and in life. That truth, Langdon believes, is the truth behind the Mona Lisa’s smile.
Analysis: The theory Langdon lays out in this chapter—namely, that the Mona Lisa is a visual representation of “the divine union of male and female” (p. 130)—may or may not be true in real life. Again, for the purposes of the novel, its real-world accuracy is beside the point: within the narrative world Brown is constructing, the theory (accepted as truth) drives the plot forward. Brown has established the dilemma: over the centuries, the Christian Church has divorced the feminine from the masculine in spirituality and in life. Now, the Mona Lisa—painted by Da Vinci, a grandmaster of the Priory of Sion and a critic of the Church—emerges as Brown’s visual symbol of the dilemma’s resolution: the rejoining of the two. And with its references to Amon condoms and the sexual slang “horny,” Brown again shows his masterful talent at connecting these grand, sweeping theories to small elements that other characters in the book, not to mention the book’s readers, can recognize in their own everyday experiences. Brown thus skillfully sustains the verisimilitude he will need to carry readers through the novel to its climax and conclusion.