1. Education

Androgynous Anagram of Egyptian God Names?


Image source ArtprintCollection.com; Used with permission

Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519). Mona Lisa (La Gioconda), ca. 1503-05. Oil on poplar wood. 77 x 53 cm (30 3/8 x 20 7/8 in.).

© Musée du Louvre, Paris
In chapter 26 of The Da Vinci Code, we are all treated to a gigantic secret during a flash-backed memory of a "Culture for Convicts" (Mr. Brown's droll words, not mine) lecture that professor Langdon once presented to a group of inmates in some sort of community outreach program. The secret is: the Mona Lisa is an androgynous self portrait of Leonardo!

But wait, it gets even better. "Mona Lisa" is an anagram of "Amon" and "Isis," if you write "Isis" in the manner of some (unreferenced) ancient pictogram that roughly translates to "L'isa" in Latin text. Thus PROVING that (quoting from p. 121) "... not only does the face of Mona Lisa look androgynous, but her name is an anagram of the divine union of male and female. And that, my friends, is Da Vinci's little secret, and the reason for Mona Lisa's knowing smile."

What an utter load of fiction.

Facts are, Leonardo didn't name this painting. Anything. Not La Gioconda, not La Gioconde, not La Joconde and not Mona Lisa. He was very fond of it and made sure it traveled with him until he died in France, but he never named either the painting or its sitter. (If there was, in fact, a sitter.)

Mona Lisa was something that Giorgio Vasari, Italian painter and author, came up with in 1550 when he identified the sitter (nearly half a century after the fact) as Lisa Gherardini, young wife of the Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo. I cannot tell you if Vasari was additionally an Egyptologist capable of making a secretive, jokey anagram of ancient gods' and goddesses' names. What I can say with certainty is that he very frequently missed the "accurate" mark with names and dates within his art historic 1550 publication Delle Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori. Vasari had a great knack, however, for telling a good story. (You are entirely welcome to any parallels you may care to draw here between fact, fiction, 1550, 2003 and a good story.)
  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Art History

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.