Digging Up Da Vinci’s MuseApril 8, 2011 1 Comment
For years, scientists and art aficionados have been trying to uncover the secrets of Mona Lisa’s smile as if they’re convinced there is some ancient or sacred knowledge in her smirk. If we know her true identity, maybe she’ll be able to tell us something more about Leonardo da Vinci. Maybe she could set the record straight once and for all and admit that da Vinci was gay.
But can digging up the remains of a woman buried in 1542 and thought to be da Vinci’s muse really tell us anything productive? Plato writes that there is some city that existed called Atlantis. Much of Plato’s writing was political philosophy, but we have a desire to seek truth, especially knowing that age old saying, “art imitates life.” Just as explorers are still searching for Atlantis, proposing theories that the lost city was devastated by a tsunami, forensics are frantically searching for the meaning of Mona Lisa’s smile. Science has to have the answer.
But how does anyone know this woman is real? Perhaps she is the female version of Leonardo himself or some version of femininity that da Vinci only, being the apparently “flamboyant” man that he was, was privy to as a brilliant artist.
Even if she was real, is digging up da Vinci’s muse really going to reveal something earth-shattering about women, Leonardo da Vinci or art in general? Italian forensics think so.
According to the Toronto Sun, Italian scientists have been given the go-ahead to exhume the body of Lisa Gherandini, a merchant’s wife who was confirmed, in 2009, to be da Vinci’s muse. They’re going to “investigate her bones to find out what kind of woman she was.”
Since when did bones reveal someone’s personality, inner thoughts, and reason for smiling the way they did for that artist back in the 16th century? It seems more like a post-mortem lobotomy than anything else. Perhaps they hope she will whisper to them why she was smiling. She’ll say, “Leonardo was not gay. We got it on before I posed for this portrait.” Surprise! Chances are, however, the response would be more anti-climactic. Picture something like, “I don’t know. That’s just my face.”
What is more significant is that, through the power of art, da Vinci has made a fleeting feeling – a simple smile – last hundreds of years. This painting will continue to affect people in perpetuity because of the mystery at the heart of that famous smile.
Whether or not she was a real woman with a deep dark secret hiding behind those intriguing eyes and smile, some things are better left to the imagination.
There must be some secrets we really do take to the grave.
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