No ownership for genius
The master of masters, the man who is perhaps the greatest archetype of the true Renaissance Man Leonardo Da Vinci, is said to have remarked that art is never finished, it is only abandoned. The jury is still out on whether great works of art are to be considered essentially from the prism of their degrees of incompleteness, but what is perhaps a universal consensus is that appreciation of great art is an unfolding process and with time, newer and newer layers of meaning are discovered in works considered to be the artistic milestones of humankind. But one must also note that it is not just appreciation but also ownership of artistic master pieces that seem to have that tag of indeterminacy attached to it. Only a few years ago the Elgin Marbles, the muse of English Romantic John Keats’ famous poem and currently housed in the British Museum, was the bone of contention between Greece and England. The controversy has halted since then, perhaps only because Greek has too many wounds to lick of its own. But it may come back any moment. However, the present crisis of ownership is bugging no one else than Lisa Del Giocondo. Giocondo who? If this name sounds alien then try Mademoiselle Mona Lisa! Yes, Lisa Del Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy silk merchant of Florence, is the real name of Mona Lisa, often considered the world’s most famous painting! And the dispute is between France, which houses the painting and Italy, which owns Da Vinci.
This week, 1,50,000 Italians took part in a campaign organised by the National Committee for Historical, Cultural and Environmental Heritage of Italy, to bring back Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris to Uffizi Museum in Florence. Their claim is that since the painting is that of an Italian, by an Italian and was commissioned in Italy, Florence precisely, in 1503, it should be considered the home country of the painting. France has rubbished the claims. Leonardo travelled with the painting to France in 1516 and left it in the French territory after his death in 1519. The painting was later bought by the French royal family and has since been the property of France. Italy can have emotional claim to it, but legally it belongs to France. And perhaps to no one in particular! Mona Lisa is for all eyes and all ages. Its address at Louvre is merely incidental. It’s her becalming smile and her mesmeric dignity of poise that has haunted the world for all five hundred years. And will continue to do so, whether in Paris or Florence or at any goddam place!