Monday, December 8, 2008

Tres Dramatique!

While researching my paper on Giotto and the Arena Chapel Frescoes, I got COMPLETELY sidetracked by a bunch of other articles on later Renaissance art. One of Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings that I particularly like is the Virgin of the Rocks, probably because I think Baby Jesus and Baby John the Baptist are chubby and adorable in that Renaissance holy fat baby way (no one bothered to study the CORRECT proportions for babies and small children until much later).

Anyway, as some of you may recall, Dan Brown used this piece in the Da Vinci Code and made some pretty "far-fetched" claims about the symbolism used in it. For example, he purports that the Archangel Uriel, on the right, is making a throat slashing motion with his pointing finger. Brown says that this and other sly allusions placed in the painting by cheeky ol' Leo caused the Church to reject it, leading to the second rendition of Virgin of the Rocks (which I personally find not as attractive as its predecessor).

[I'm getting to the point soon, I swear.]

So, APPARENTLY, the Louvre had a WEENSY issue with Dan Brown and his artistic license:
The spectacular Grande Galerie in the Louvre plays an important role in the novel The Da Vinci Code, providing the setting for the beginning of the story. Far more remarkable than the parquet flooring with its chevron patterns mentioned in the book is the collection of Italian paintings. Four of the five paintings by Leonardo da Vinci in the Louvre are on display here. The Da Vinci Code analyzes The Virgin of the Rocks (which Sophie Neveu removes from the wall) in a new and subversive way. It suggests that Mary holds in her left hand the invisible head of Mary Magdalene, whose neck is being symbolically sliced by the gesture of the Archangel Uriel on the right. Leonardo was thus supposedly showing the Church’s conspiracy against Christ’s companion during the early centuries. This far-fetched interpretation of the painting might have been inspired by the work of Bernardino Luini just to the left: Salome Receiving the Head of Saint John the Baptist. In reality, Mary’s mysterious gesture relates to traditional religious iconography: Mary is the mother of Jesus, but she is also the incarnation of the Church, the “house.” In the painting, therefore, she seems to be covering the head of her Son with her left hand, as if with a roof. The Da Vinci Code thus transformed a gesture of protection into a metaphorical representation of murder. This powerful literary effect is a travesty of art history.

[Emphasis mine]

A TRAVESTY! For shame, Mr. Brown. For shame.

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