A new way of verifying an art work in Italy can spoil the picture. If it trends here, will Tampa Bay art lovers see the “tears of the gods” – said to be congealed in ancient Peruvian beaker of gold “Effigy Beaker” at the Museum of Fine Arts – DNA-tested? Or will what’s left of Rome’s Lucius Caltilius Diadumernus, the model for the portrait in Tampa Museum’s “Grave Altar,” 140-170 A.D. be exhumed?Sound ridiculous? Probably, but I’m writing this just in case.
Open letter to Florentine researcher Silvano Vincetti:
Don’t do it. Don’t dig up the bones of Lisa Ghiradin, a.k.a. Mona Lisa to verify that she’s the one who sat for Leonardo Da Vinci’s portrait.
Granted, her identify has been in question for a long time. And one may wonder why Leonardo kept the portrait for himself until his death if, as believed, Ghiradin’s husband Francesco del Giocondo commissioned it. But by exhuming Ghiradin’s remains, you may be digging yourself into a deeper hole. If it’s not her, then you’ll want to unearth Leonardo’s remains in another belief that the painting is a self-portrait.
And if it’s not the artist or his model in the painting, won’t you want to dig up all the other known possibilities: Leonardo’s mother Caterina, Princess Isabella of Naples, Spanish noblewoman Costanzade’Avalos and Cecelia Gallerani – the subject of Leonardo’s painting “The Lady with an Ermine”?
Oh, and let’s not forget Leonardo’s apprentice and supposed lover Gian Giacomo Caprotti, called Salai, who inherited the portrait after his mentor’s death. After all, as you have theorized, the title “Mona Lisa” could be an anagram for “Mon Salai.”
Of course, to rationalize your digs, you’ll need to ignore the discovery made at Heidelberg University- the handwritten note in a margin of a manuscript dated 1503 by a Florentine monk saying that Leonardo was working on a painting of Lisa Gheradin del Giocondo. You’ll also have to ignore Leonardo’s own words when he bequeathed the portrait to Salai as “La Gioconda” – the female version of her husband’s name.
But never mind all that. Does it matter who sat for the portrait? Isn’t the tight, enigmatic smile its claim to fame? Doesn’t all great art keep its deepest secrets – like Mother Nature herself? Aren’t the mysteries of nature in Mona Lisa’s soft-shadowed mouth, as though coming out from behind fog, alluding to the fleeting ways of nature down to the flowing waterway in the background landscape?
Leonardo answers such questions for you in his notebook, which he carried around in his pocket: “Painting is a grandchild of nature. It is related to God. Consult Nature in everything…”
Can you see now that digging people up for answers about art is a dead end?