To answer the question, Zenit interviews philosopher Giuseppe Fornari, author of "La bellezza e il nulla. L'antropologia cristiana di Leonardo da Vinci" (Beauty and Nothingness: The Christian Anthropology of Leonardo da Vinci). Fornari states:
Without a doubt, in all his works with a religious theme, one sees a growing maturation which finds the fullness of its maturity in the "Adoration of the Magi."
A constant in such paintings is meditation on the reality and centrality of the sacrifice, accepted by Christ for the salvation of humanity, a meditation that came to him from Tradition and from the suggestions of theologians with whom he was in contact every now and then, but which Leonardo deepened increasingly in the light of difficult personal experiences, marked by his condition of illegitimate son.
All this led him to give an interpretation of moving truth and profundity to the great themes of the Incarnation, the Fatherhood of God and the motherhood of Mary.
Ah, but what does a novelist from New Hampshire say about "da Vinci"?
Dan Brown describes the Renaissance artist and scientist as someone who frequently created religious art, while quietly defying church authorities. "He had the unfortunate place in history of being born a modern man of reason in an age of religious fervor, when science was synonymous with heresy. But he really enjoyed his secrets. And his diaries, his paintings, his drawings, all contained hidden symbolic messages. Art historians probably know exactly what I'm talking about, but there's a reason the Mona Lisa has a smile. She's very amused at what is hidden in the painting," he says.