Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Who was Mona Lisa?

One of the most remarkable places in the Loire Valley is the Clos Lucé in Amboise. It’s the former home of the legendary Leonardo Da Vinci. After having lived in Milan, Florence and Rome for the best part of his life, he moved to France in 1516, where he became the confident and advisor of the French King François I. He died in 1519 and was buried near the Château d’Amboise.

The Clos Lucé is a nice stately manor house situated within walking distance of the Château d’Amboise. It is said that there is an intricate system of subterranean corridors that lead from the castle to the manor, by which the King or Leonardo could go from one place to the other without being seen.

We visited the Clos Lucé on two occasions. The first time was in 1999. The month of June being the yearly school outing season in France, the place was packed with primary school pupils. They were clearly annoyed by the explanations their teachers insisted on giving them about the life of the great man. We were pushed around and hardly saw any of the items on display. So we quickly made our way to the park, where it was a lot quieter and the summer heat was less intense than it was inside.

The flying man: a spectacular life-size replica of one of Leonardo's inventions,
on display in one of the side buildings of the Clos Lucé in Amboise.

The park hosts a large collection of replica of Leonardo’s inventions. Giant reproductions of his famous pencil drawings on almost transparent cloth hang from the branches of the trees where they gently sway in the summer breeze.

In spite of a second, much quieter visit of the interior some years later, I can’t remember whether there was a reproduction of the famous Mona Lisa on display, the orginal being in the Louvre in Paris.

The reason why I’m telling you all this is because there was an interesting article in today’s edition of a major Belgian newspaper, referring to a topic in the recent Sunday Times. It read that Italian scientists have obtained the permission to dig up Leonardo’s body to make a reconstruction of his face. The rumour is that the famous Mona Lisa isn’t the portrait of Leonardo’s mother or that of Lisa Gherardini, a merchant’s wife as the general theory goes. No, these scientists believe that it is a self-portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci!

By digging up his body and reconstructing his features by using the skull, they hope to proof that Mona Lisa and Leonardo Da Vinci is the same person. The paper didn’t say when they wanted to go ahead with their plan, but there is a fair chance that Leonardo’s tomb near the Château of Amboise will be opened up this summer.

What do you think the outcome will be? Your guess is as good as mine! Will the mystery of the world famous Mona Lisa smile at last be revealed? Who was it again who sang: "Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa ... You're so like the woman with the mystic smile ... "?



Leon Sims said...

It was only last May that we visited Clos Luce and to spend more than the half day that we did would have been more rewarding as we felt it desreved more of our time. This was after the early morning market at Amboise. Maybe we can visit the Chateau this time.

ladybird said...

Leon, Yes do visit the Château the next time you're in Amboise. They now also have a guided tour of the basement ... That should be fun!

NickL said...

Fascinating post, I'd no idea the italians thought ML was L d'V!

As you say its a very interesting place but the thing I found a bit off-putting was just how many of his inventions that were modelled or displayed were weapons or war machines. I suppose it was a sign of the times, the kings inventor would only be valued if he could invent something to keep the king in (more) power!

By the way a top tip for the menfolk is take your wife to Amboise on a Monday, the shops are closed........


Amanda said...

The "rumor" of Mona Lisa being a self portrait of Leonardo has been going around for a long time. It really doesn't matter (to me). There is also a rumor that the shroud of Turin is also Leonardo's photo-image.

ladybird said...

NickL, I'm not sure that Leonardo invented all these war machines when he was working for the French king. I think that some of them date from the time he was still living in Italy. But I can be wrong of course, as kings like to increase their power, like you said.

As for the shops being closed on Monday ... Being a woman, I'd say ... no comment :) !!

ladybird said...

Nadege, Aren't you just a tiny bit curious about the outcome of the investigation, even if the rumour is an old one?

Lynn said...

We toured the Chateau in 2008 then walked to Clos Luce (in the rain) with our two then 9 year old daughters. By the time we got there we realized we had "bit off" too much and we didn't go inside and tour the property. We had only one week in the Loire that year.

Happily we are going back this summer for one month - this time we will skip the chateau and spend the day at Clos Luce.

Love reading your blog!

ladybird said...

Hi Lynn, Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog.

The Château and the Clos on the same day is indeed a bit too much, especially if the weather isn't cooperating! But I bet your girls will love it when you return this summer. The models in the basement and the life-size replica in the park are really great for kids!

I hope you'll have a lovely time!

Ken Broadhurst said...

Nat King Cole, no?

Leonardo did a lot of thinking and drawing, but most of his "inventions" were never built, I think, except in his mind.

He will have pulled off a colossal joke if it turns out La Joconde's face is actually his.

ladybird said...

That's right Ken, it was Nat King Cole who sang the Mona Lisa song.

As for the painting, I'm really curious to know what the result of the reconstruction will be.

Jean said...

That Nat King Cole song brings back memories of lunch at home with my parents, in their tiny council house in the country, Mum cooking the Sunday roast lamb and me "helping" to make the pastry for the apple pie with the radio on. Nat King Cole was very popular and it was always a BBC programme for forces personnel overseas called "two-way family favourites" or something like that, I think.

Funny how just a snippet of music or a single line from a song can bring the memories flooding back. Smells do it for me, too.

ladybird said...

Jean, Those are lovely memories!

Your comment makes me think of a song by the Dutch-French singer Dave in which there is a line that goes as follows: "... parfois il suffit d'un parfum, pour qu'on retrouve soudain la magie d'un matin et on oublie l'avenir pour quelques souvenirs ..."

chm said...

Cant resit to post this joke in French:
C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron,
Et pourtant, ce n'est pas en sciant que Leonard de Vinci.

ladybird said...

Chm, LOL :)