Art, Still Not Dead!

I CANNOT TELL A LIE, much as I would like to. This wonderful bit of Photoshopping was sent by a reader who calls himself Mr. Eyeballs. I wish I could say I found it myself.



Who knew just how contemporary that Mona Lisa smile could be? A stylized expression in Leonardo’s day, it suddenly looks quite current removed from a Renaissance setting and inserted into a post-modern one. The bloody amputation might be a bit over the top, but the figure’s facial mien—part simper, part sneer—would do nicely in a Vogue photo shoot. Not quite as enigmatic as it has been deemed down the centuries. What a difference placement makes. And the right haircut.

If you are a Photoshop freak, you already know about If you are not, you will have fun with it. It specializes, as you can guess, in wacky, doctored photos. This is art, too. It is still collage, just without the mess of scissors and paste. The vamped up image above has all the wit of Eduardo Paolozzi, a favorite of mine. Paolozzi’s clever fracturings are lighter in spirit. Their visual intelligence amuses, seduces, but without biting. Color lends buoyancy.

Eduardo Paolozzi, "Real Gold" (1950)


The Freaking da Vinci riff is fun but fittingly caustic at the same time. Enjoy.

© 2011 Maureen Mullarkey



  1. So? Does this mean the “final resting place” will become a shrine to the painting? Does it matter, Mr. Eyeballs?

  2. Back atcha, Ms. Studio Matters! Are you kidding? The tomb of DaVinci’s most famous model is a world event. Don’t you know that the model is a collaborator with the artist in creation? Isn’t that one of the revealed truths of the feministist art movement?

  3. Yes, yes, I do know. And you are right about the collaborative mythology. But there is something comical about touting the possible–and it is only a possibility–burial spot of Leonardo’s model.

  4. I would would say it’s just a tribal hunger for more folklore, exploited by the media’s rapacious need to draw attention to their advertising—but then I’m just a cynic.

    Nevertheless, and to answer your two questions: “Does this mean the “final resting place” will become a shrine to the painting? Does it matter, Mr. Eyeballs?” I would ask: who knows and who cares? I certainly don’t.

    I like what Eric Hoffer said:

    “The fact of death and nothingness at the end is a certitude unsurpassed by any absolute truth ever discovered. Yet, knowing this, people can be deadly serious about their prospects, grievances, duties and trespassings. The only explanation which suggests itself is that seriousness is a means to camouflage: we conceal the triviality and nullity of our lives by taking things too seriously, No opiate and no pleasure chase can so effectively mask the terrible truth about man’s life as does seriousness.”

  5. It is good to see a reference to Eric Hoffer, a name unfairly tucked away in the back of the culural drawer. Much as I admire—and I truly do—his The True Believer, I take his longshoreman metaphysics with a grain of salt.

  6. Salt is fine and needed in every stew, however, what specifically about that particular quote is in need of it?

  7. Hoffer was a great rarity, a self-educated and passionate opponent of totalitarian ideologies. He loathed Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, despite fashionable approval for Stalin, even Mussolini, in certain intellectual quarters. A great philosopher, truly. But also something of an ideologue himself when it came to his attitude toward religious faith. He was an avowed atheist; hence his comment: “The fact of death and nothingness at the end is a certitude unsurpassed by any absolute truth ever discovered.” His certitude of ultimate nothingness is an assertion, as much a statement of faith as the religious believer’s trust that death does not have the last word.

    Picking quotes can degenerate into a parlor game. But the Hoffer observation I like best is : “You dehumanize a man as much by returning him to nature – by making him one with rocks, vegetation, and animals – as by turning him into a machine.”Hoffer argued eloquently for human exceptionalism. Honor is due him for that and so much else. But that does nor require assent to his denial of realities outside the scope and limits of his own ken.

    In any case, dear, observant Mr. Eyeballs, Hoffer’s atheism takes us off topic. I am not sure it applies to digging up–possibly–the grave of Leonardo’s–possible–model.

  8. Gosh, thanks for your thoughtful clarification; I now realize that I should have been more specific and not used such an arcane quote. I meant to imply that in the scheme of things, it’s the artist’s passion for beauty and mystery that outweighs the compulsion to enshrine the man over the act and what fueled it–reminding me of a story that a Jesuit psychologist, Anthony de Mello, liked to tell:

    There was a man who invented the art of making fire. He took his tools and went to a tribe in the north, where it was very cold, bitterly cold. He taught the people there to make fire. The people were very interested. He showed them the uses to which they could put fire – they could cook, could keep themselves warm, etc. They were so grateful that they had learned the art of making fire. But before they could express their gratitude to the man, he disappeared. He wasn’t concerned with getting their recognition or gratitude; he was concerned about their well being. He went to another tribe, where he again began to show them the value of his invention.

    People were interested there, too, a bit too interested for the peace of mind of their priests, who began to notice that this man was drawing crowds and they were losing their popularity. So they decided to do away with him. They poisoned him, crucified him, put it any way you like. But they were afraid now that the people might turn against them, so they were very wise, even wily. Do you know what they did? They had a portrait of the man made and mounted it on the main altar of the temple. The instruments for making fire were placed in front of the portrait, and the people were taught to revere the portrait and to pay reverence to the instruments of fire, which they dutifully did for centuries. The veneration and the worship went on, but there was no fire.

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