[NetBehaviour] The Architectural Mona Lisa

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Tue Nov 23 21:55:18 CET 2021

Hi all,

Researching this past month I noted an interesting quote by Paul Valery in his 1895 essay "Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci."  (One wonders why it is called an "Introduction," when there is no other work subsequently attached, but perhaps it is a kind of boast unsurprising in a 24-year-old.)

After discussing the mysteriousness too predictably and rotely ascribed to the Mona Lisa, Valery states that the medium of work best suited for understanding Leonardo is not painting but architecture, to which he changes the subject.

Then he writes:

“The monument (which composes the City, which in turn is almost the whole of civilization) is such a complex entity that our understanding of it passes through several successive phases.  First we grasp a changeable background that merges with the sky, then a rich texture of motifs in height, breadth, and depth, infinitely varied by perspective, then something solid, bold, resistant, with certain animal characteristics – organs, members – then finally a machine having gravity for its motive force, one that carries us in thought from geometry to dynamics and thence to the most tenuous speculations of molecular physics, suggesting as it does not only the theories of that science but the models used to represent molecular structures.”

Is this not, ironically, a rather exact description of the Mona Lisa?

In any case, very best wishes to all,

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