The punning title refers to (a) the aesthetic disaster of a neoclassical relief based on Poussin's Et in Arcadia Ego at Shugborough Hall; (b) the relief that an article on it mentioned by Tony Green is free of Da Vinci Code hermeneutics.
Alas, no image can escape being contaminated by Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, which itself was spawned by Henry Lincoln's "factual" bestseller, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked by students if Poussin was a freemason, a templar, or member of some hermetic cabal. I take it all in my stride, even smiling sweetly when one of my students offers to lend me the illustrated Da Vinci Code, complete with a reproduction of Poussin's Louvre Self- Portrait! More seriously, I have had cases when Dan Brown has nudged Panofsky, Warburg et al off the art history map completely. There was the memorable case of a student who wrote an essay on Leonardo's Last Supper putting only Dan Brown in the bibliography. I couldn't believe that- thank god it's a rare occurrence. Of course, there's the argument that using the Dan Brown phenomenon to get students interested in difficult paintings is better than them ignoring them; but that's obviously open to abuse. Worse, it leads to intellectual laziness, a schematic art history by the esoteric numbers. Whilst I won't throw Damisch or Marin directly at them, I expect them to have read Panofsky at the very least!
We occasionally get the lunatic fringe in Poussin scholarship: the odd book or article which veers dangerously close to Lincoln and Brown. Surfing through the websites on the Shugborough Grail Mystery, I'm reminded of a Poussin book a few years back that made similar symbolic cross-correlations to prove a fanciful theory. Lincoln and his heirs have done a lot of damage. No wonder that Blunt shut the door on Lincoln and co when they door-stepped him while researching the Holy Grail film.
I made the mistake- horrible admission- of trying to read the Da Vinci Code once. I got about a quarter of the way in before propelling the book across the room. I then proceeded to pour critical scorn on Mr Brown's knowledge of art, his egregious writing style and general inability to sustain an interesting narrative. I made the mistake of watching the film, but judged it a case of Jason Bourne meets Panofsky, or a less systematic iconographer/decoder. I think the best comment ever made about Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code was made by Umberto Eco, who wrote the mother of all conspiracy theory books- Foucault's Pendulum. Hardly surprising that the author who wrote a book simultaneously generating and debunking conspiracy theories had this to say of the DVC.
"I was obliged to read it. The author, Dan Brown, is a character from Foucault's Pendulum. I invented him. He shares my character's fascinations- the world conspiracy of Rosicrucians, Masons, and Jesuits. The role of the Knights Templar. The hermetic secret. The principle that everything is connected. I suspect that Dan Brown might not even exist."
That's an interesting idea. Dan Brown as the name of a covert organization dedicated to the dissemination of historical cults through the mass media, fringe scholarship, the publishing world, and now god help us- the heritage industry.
As for the 'Shepherds Monument' with an eight word inscription below it, you can read about the theories here and here. I have no comment, but with the Holy Grail connection being played up on the web, I wouldn't be surprised to see some author or pseudo-scholar connect this manufactured piece of esoterica with the Holy Grail/Templar conspiracy and follow in Lincoln and Brown's footsteps.