Have you ever pretended you knew something? A fact in history perhaps? The details of someone’s story, his life’s work, his legacy? Have you conveyed to someone, I know this, I knew that? Is there a chance we don’t know what we presume we know?
When reading your favorite newspaper, have you ever wondered if the information your reading is true? Is it reliable? Are the writers honest in their journalism? It better be, or else we would be reading false words, and we would be grossly misinformed. But was there an instance, wherein you felt you were reading false information?
An article was written by Philippine Senator Blas Ople in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on June 30 and July 7, 2002, in it, Senator Ople wrote about Leonardo da Vinci and in honor of his contemporary and friend, a certain cartoonist turned ’artist’. (Actually, I wrote this in my journal on July 11, 2002, as a reaction to the Senator’s article, with the intention of submitting it to the PDI for possible publication, which I never did, but I am writing it now here in my blog, and as always, better late than never)
This is concerning your article of June 30 and July 7, 2002. Can I correct you on the fact that the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci was painted in c.1495 to 1497, which can still be found in it’s original location, in the Santa Maria Delle Grazie (refectory of the Monastery) and not “around 1500” and not in another place as you have written. And Leonardo’s birthplace was not Florence as you so claim, but in the town of Vinci, located 45 km. from Florence. Hence his name which means no more than “Leonardo from Vinci”. Because it was customary in Italy during the time of Leonardo for a person’s surname to be connected to his ancestry, his place of birth or his profession. And he lived in Milan not for 10 years as Senator Ople wrote, but 17 years. From 1482 until 1499 (when the French invaded).
And he worked at the court of Duke Ludovico Sforza and not Count as Senator Ople stated, and he was recommended primarily as a musician, a player on the lyre, not a lute as the Senator stated (please look for the meaning of these two instruments). And he was at the Court of the Sforza as a painter, and as a court Engineer, he only did schemes for various projects. Yes, he did play the lyre masterfully, but in the realm of sculpture, Leonardo never erected any (the Senator wrote Leonardo is a master Sculptor), he almost did however, for a project of a huge equestrian statue to Ludovico Sforza’s father.
But it is now known only in preliminary drawings. And there is no mention in the history books of him serving in the Italian Civil Wars, as a Military Engineer, “a genius in the art of fortifications” (as written again by the Senator), as a engineer, he left us only construction sketches of his engineering genius. But it is very difficult to say whether such equipment could have been built, given the resources available at that time. And he did not designed the spire on Milan Cathedral (as the Senator wrote otherwise again). He did designs yes, on his famous notebooks, but the actual spire on the cathedral was not designed by him.
The Senator wrote, “The whole world is still waiting for the definitive biography of Leonardo da Vinci.” Can I ask, how did you know the whole world is waiting? As you said yourself (I’m referring to the Senator), Leonardo’s life is a mystery. Let’s leave it at that, even though little is known of his early life, his contribution to Art, isn’t. He left us his real legacy- his paintings. Although few, they are the greatest in the history of Art.
It is what an artist does that’s important rather than what his life was like. Because it is in an artist’s, a true artist’s work that speaks for him. If Leonardo really said it or not, your correct when you wrote that painting is the most difficult, the most intellectually demanding and the most complex of all the Arts. And the Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renoir once observed that, “painting isn’t just daydreaming, it is primarily a manual skill, and one has to be a good workman.” Painting is a craft as well as an Art - and a difficult craft to master at that.
In the second part of the Senator’s article, he wrote that he sees in a certain cartoonist turned painter the attributes of a Renaissance Artist in the tradition of the Florentine Masters. I doubt it if that ‘artist’ can copy and duplicate the painting techniques used by Leonardo for his famous paintings like the Mona Lisa or the Fresco technique used for the Last Supper. In fact even if you gather the greatest painters alive today. They won’t even get close to duplicating what Leonardo did in painting his famous paintings.
Can anyone ask this certain cartoonist turned painter why his subject matter and technique of rendering his ’paintings’ remained virtually the same since he started his so called ’artistic career’? Or maybe I can answer that, based on my understanding of painting. Maybe the cartoonist turned painter can’t paint or draw in the same manner as the Renaissance artists or at least in a naturalistic manner. Can anyone ask him if he knew an instance when he painted a subject in the technique of the Renaissance masters? Quite frankly, he never abandoned his being a cartoonist in rendering his ’paintings’, for the very simple reason that he cannot draw or paint naturalistically. He has trapped himself in his ‘style’. And he is being championed by the Senator as having the attributes of a Renaissance Artist. Quite a bold statement.
The techniques employed by the Great masters takes years to finish and quite frankly, not a simple thing to accomplish. You can’t imagine what the Great Masters have to do and endure to execute their paintings. Quite honestly, many ‘artists’ in this so called ‘artistic country’, have trapped themselves with their so called ‘art styles’.
My letter abruptly stopped here, for some reason, I wasn’t able to finish it.
Does the dear Senator have any idea what he was talking, or in this case, writing about? Over 90 percent of what he wrote about the Great Leonardo da Vinci was inaccurate. If someone, let’s say, was interested in Art and was aspiring to be an artist, read the Senator’s article and was inspired by the Senator’s words, and believed every statement he wrote. Isn’t it probable that that person would be misinformed? And worst yet, if he or she indeed pursued a career in Art, and he referred to the article of the Senator as his basis for his knowledge of Leonardo da Vinci, and then someone would ask him something regarding Leonardo, would that be misinforming the recipient as well?
There is an English adage that says, “Little knowledge is dangerous.” And very true it is, a little folly in part of someone can be very dangerous. Whether it be in deeds or in words or information.
In the case of information, a deadly chain reaction would occur, each one misinforming the other, and the chain could only be broken when someone with the correct knowledge of that information redirects them to the truth.
The written word is a powerful tool, as the famous adage states, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
I am not declaring that I know more than Senator Ople. He’s a Senator, for crying out loud. One of the Lawmakers of a Republic. And one of the highest positions in the country. But in the realm of Art and the Art of painting, I would have to disagree with what he wrote.
Have you been misinformed lately? Or maybe you didn’t know that what your reading or listening to, is inaccurate? Or maybe you didn’t mind? You might say, it’s just trivial, It won’t affect me or my present mental or psychological state of mind.
So, your just going to sit in a corner, and never venture outside of the box? Just be quiet and let the world pass by? Anyway, it’s just words on a page right?