Thursday, 26 July 2012

Alas, Poor Lisa!

I hope you'll forgive another quick reaction-piece, bashed out as my summer blog-break approaches.

One of my daily reads is the Archaeological News from Archaeology Magazine.  I'm something of an armchair archaeology enthusiast, and this website gives a fascinating daily insight into the life of trowel-wielding folk by digesting the latest extremely old news stories from around the world.  But one story that has baffled me is this: Skeleton Unearthed in Hunt for Mona Lisa.

It's a story so ludicrous that it must say something profound about our culture.  Or at least something about what's wrong with it.  Let me get this straight: archaeologists have dug up the floor of a convent in Venice, and are sifting through the remains in its graveyard, in the hope that one of the women buried there will turn out to be Lisa Gherardini, the woman who may -- or may not -- have been the model for Da Vinci's Mona Lisa?

In the hope of establishing what, exactly?  That a real woman was the subject of a famous portrait, and is now just a heap of bones?  No, no: THIS heap of bones!  THESE are the bones of the Mona Lisa!

And?  As always, Mr. Shakespeare got there first, and a mere 60 years after La Gioconda hit the dirt:

HAMLET: Let me see.
(Takes the skull)
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath bore me on his back a thousand times; and now -- how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?  Now get you to my lady's chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come.  Make her laugh at that.
Well, she may not have laughed, but Leonardo did capture an intriguing little smile.  And to that favour she did most certainly come:  but soon we will have proof of it!

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