By happenstance, I am currently reading a book of Renaissance history, entitled The Artist, The Philosopher, and The Warrior: The Intersecting Lives of Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia and the World They Shaped, in which Leonardo figures prominently and was curious to see that a new painting has apparently been discovered, enriching the owner to the tune of some US$99,980,000 if all goes well at auction.
The discovery inspires an interesting Gedankenexperiment (thanks to Anu Garg for breathing new life into this great word through his delightful Word-of-the-Day e-mail):
Imagine for a moment that a superlatively great work were to be lost to human eyes immediately upon its creation, a statue even more impressive and beautiful than Michelangelo’s Pietà, say, or a painting on the order of Vermeer’s Het Mesje met de Parel. Imagine, then, that after several hundred years of absence from the historical record it were to reappear on March 15, 2012. Would it still be considered a “masterpiece,” or simply a curiosity? Surely at least some of what makes the above-mentioned works “great” is the patina of age, familiarity, and criticism by minds great and small. Is it conceivable that a great work could ever be rediscovered that would unseat the Mona Lisa from her throne? What would that mean?
And could it be that yet another lost da Vinci has been found, just this week?
Thanks once again to the indispensable Arts & Letters Daily. Veritas odit moras, indeed.