Sunday, January 24, 2010

Exhuming Leonardo

A team from Italy's National Committee for Cultural Heritage wants to exhume the skeleton of Leonardo da Vinci from its tomb in the chapel at Amboise castle in order to reconstruct his face from measurements of the skull. The reason? To determine whether the Mona Lisa is a disguised self-portrait.

You can read about it here.

Complicating the issue is that the preserved remains are only "presumed" to be those of Leonardo. The church where he was buried was destroyed during the Revolution and bones reburied in the present chapel in 1874.

I can see how the question of a disguised self-portrait would intrigue art historians, but part of the attraction of the Mona Lisa is the mystery that surrounds it. Does settling the matter merit such drastic measures, or should we let sleeping artists lie? What do you think?

5 comments:

Arleigh said...

I recently read Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell, in which the Mona Lisa is his mother and then in her novel on the young Anne Boleyn in France, Leonardo is featured as a character and he takes the portrait with him everywhere. I think it's wonderful to have the mystery and such intriguing fiction to fill in the 'what ifs' and I don't see how proving WHO the sitter of the portrait is would benefit us so much.

zquilts said...

It seems a bit beside the point at this time - would it change anything? Make the portrait any more or less beautiful? What would confirmation achieve? I say - let him be!

Anonymous said...

Why not exhume him? I don't think he'd object to that, otherwise he'd sound a bit hypocritical. Leonardo himself wasn't against autopsy or using dead bodies for his research. If it's for science, or art, or another seemingly noble purpose...

Tocotin

Catherine Delors said...

Poor Leonardo. First the Da Vinci Code, now this exhumation of a body that may, or may not be his... just to prove he painted himself in drag? Hopefully he is having a good laugh at all of this.

Julianne Douglas said...

I tend to fall in the "let it rest" camp myself, although Tocotin does make a good point--Leonardo himself didn't have any problems with exhuming dead bodies! Even with measurements and all, though, I think any conclusions about the identity of the sitter would continue to be speculative.

And yes, Catherine, I bet Leonardo is rather amused by it all!