An Arago plaque next to la Comédie Française in Paris.

Secrets of the code
Do Dan Brown’s readers learn something real about art? Dan Brown’s novel The da Vinci Code, suggests that already existing buildings and works of art, some of them famous, are codes conveying a specific message. The public longs for implications deeper than those borne out by the text. The debate centers on whether those implications might actually be there.

After two years at the top of the lists, Brown’s bestseller spawned a late-2004 “Special Illustrated Edition” featuring color photos of the artworks and architecture mentioned it its pages. For Brown’s “symbologist” hero, works of art and architecture hold genuine clues to unsuspected mysteries, and Bown’s readers have wanted to see the works his novel so fragmentarily describes. The illustrated edition gratifies their wishes and, of course, increases sales.

—by Jerry Cullum, published in Art Papers, May/June 2005.