Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Leonardo

The man who put the REN-in-Renaissance would turn 557 years old today. An amazing genius, he has been called perhaps the most intelligent human who ever lived.

A study a few years ago by whomever does such studies, estimated that if all of da Vinci's ideas, concepts, and drawings in his many notebooks or Codex's had been fully known and understood at the time, it could have accelerated the pace of industrial and technological advancement by close to 200 years.
While MrMartha is not sure whether to believe that, the concept of Ferrari's driving around Italy in 1765 is a very amusing thought.

There was quite an amazing ruckus in the art world during the early 1990's as a new theory on the true identity of the Mona Lisa was published. According to that premise, the portrait is actually of Leonardo himself ...IN DRAG... perhaps that is why she has such a mysterious smile.

MrMartha was thrilled as a precocious fourteen year old to be able to take a school sponsored trip to Europe in the summer of 1974, which would include several days in Paris. Perhaps most exciting would be a visit to the Louvre Museum, and a chance to see the Mona Lisa in person. MrMartha was quite crushed upon reading in Time Magazine a few months before the journey, that for the first time in decades the painting was to be lent out for exhibition. While MrMartha was in Paris, Mona would be in Japan.

The Japanese exhibition was a huge event, drawing more than 1.5 million viewers in a few short months, and inciting the sort of urgent mania that they do so well in Japan. The painting has never again been allowed out of the Louvre since its safe return.

MrMartha stubbornly insisted while at the Louvre, in addition to seeing such icons as the Venus de Milo (and imagining what her arms would have looked like) and the amazing painting of Napoleon's coronation by David (nearly two stories tall and with figures just slightly smaller than life size -- appropriate for Napoleon) -- that a pilgrimage be made to where the Mona Lisa SHOULD HAVE been displayed.

In the spot where the revered painting was normally hung, stood an easel holding an elaborate guilt frame. Inside the frame, in small and simple type, was the message: "La peinture de Leonardo Da Vinci de Mona Lisa est sur le prĂȘt et indisponible pour le visionnement." -- The Leonardo Da Vinci painting of Mona Lisa is on loan and unavailable for viewing.
Gotta love that French flair for understatement.

MrMartha's other favorite Mona Lisa related memory was in college, during Intro to Art History 203, with the formidable Professor Kingsbury. The Professor was very Boston/Back Bay/Harvard and had that Kennedy-esque accent that made listening to her lectures a real joy. She also presented a quite prim and subdued presence -- until, in her introductory lecture, she put up a slide of Marcel Duchamp's 1919 Dadaist work, consisting of a reproduction of the Mona Lisa with a crude moustache and goatee drawn on. At the base of the work are large handwritten letters: LHOOQ. Professor Kingsbury breathily related " loosely translated from the slang, it means she has a hot ass." There was quite stunned silence in the lecture hall, with the exception of one student laughing loudly -- MrMartha couldn't help himself.
MrMartha has never been able to look at the Mona Lisa the same way since.