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Local surgeon’s renaissance art discoveries to be highlighted in documentary, book

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A majority of Dr. Christopher Brown's life has been centered on the smiles of his patients and that of the famous Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.”

For countless years, Brown, a local oral and maxillofacial surgeon who practices in Morganton, has dedicated his time to researching and investigating the background, history and meaning behind paintings by the iconic renaissance artist. He has been interested in art ever since he was 5 years old when his father took him and his family to the National Art Gallery.

On May 2 at 10 p.m. on WUNC's PBS Explorer Channel, a TV series called “The Search for Mona Lisa” will be airing on PBS that Brown helped to create. In 2014, the documentary was released to distributors around the world. Now, the series has been modified due to PBS wanting to air it on public telelvision.

Brown has co-authored multiple books centered on Leonardo da Vinci called "The Mona Lisa Myth" and "Young Leonardo" and will be releasing his newest book, "The Da Vinci Legacy, " on April 30 .

The “Mona Lisa Myth” centers on how there are two different portraits of Mona Lisa, one that portrays her being younger and another that makes her look a little older.

Brown believes that da Vinci used the woman portrayed in the Mona Lisa as a model to show what the Virgin Mary would look like.

“He aged her and the hands are popped like she is pregnant, so our saying is that this is an allegorical representation of the Virgin Mary pregnant with Christ child,” he said.

In the documentary, it shows Brown and co-author Jean-Pierre Isbouts (PhD) searching for the earlier painting of the Mona Lisa.

“The Da Vinci Legacy” is described as “the first book to unravel this mystery by taking an immersive journey through art, literature, science, and politics of Europe — from the Renaissance to today. Through captivating text enhanced by 130 color images, this book not only highlights the transformative quality of Leonardo’s creativity, but also the many strange phenomena that made him the most celebrated artist of today,” said a press release.

Both of these release dates, for the book and broadcast of “The Search for Mona Lisa , ” coincide with the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death, he said.

The book touches on how Leonardo da Vinci became such an iconic artist , pushing past many other prestigious artists.

“I have always thought that Leonardo da Vinci was the most brilliant human being,” he said. “In fact, he invented steam locomotion 300 years before we even knew about steam locomotion … it was just that nobody knew it was in his notebooks.”

Another part of Brown's research has been uncovering what he believes to be hidden messages encrypted into several of da Vinci's paintings, including The Last Supper.

One of the points of debate in da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper is who is pictured at the right hand of Jesus Christ.

“My thought process on the person to the right hand of Christ … is a feminized John representing the two people that he (Christ) loves the most,” Brown said. “Just as Christ would sit to the right hand of God in heaven , the two that he loved the most to his right side would be John and the Virgin Mary.”

Eight years ago in December, someone was restoring the Mona Lisa and found that there was an “LV” in the right eye and thought it stood for Leonardo da Vinci, Brown said.

He considered that to be a case of pareidolia, which is when a piece of art looks like something else than what was intended.

“It is like the man i n the moon, or when you look at the clouds and see a dog,” Brown said.

When it comes to why Brown put forth so much effort into this type of work, he said it is to honor the work of Leonardo da Vinci and to further explain the story.

“I would hope someone would try to do the same for me by trying to put out the truth and what his real intent was,” Brown said. “We have tried to do this in a scholarly way so that it would be supported in numerous different ways.”

For more information, visit the Facebook page “Young Leonardo” by searching “the search for last supper” or visit the website Those who would like to purchase a signed copy of the new book can come by his office at 110 Juniper St. , Suite 400 in Morganton, or find it on Amazon.

Staff Writer Jonelle Bobak can be reached at or 828-432-8907.

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