I have been asked how I relate to Leonardo da Vinci, perhaps because of the masked Mona Lisa announcing my Ten Commandments for the Digital Millennium, for the recurrence of his works in my works, or for the article I wrote about Mona Lisa’s identity.
Leonardo is indeed a great influence for me, although by no means I mean to compare myself to his genius. I am not even particularly good at drawing, what I share with Leonardo is mostly being Italian and eclectic.
How he influenced me then? In the cradle, I believe.
As a baby, I have been sleeping for years with Da Vinci’s The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist above my head, or better with a big print of the cartoon you can admire in London at the National Gallery. My father bought it there, before I was born, because he thought St. Anne looked a lot like my mother (true).
I suspect that mysterious work from Da Vinci, about which both Freud and Jung wrote, had a profound influence on me. I have memories of me as a kid fixating St. Anne in a trance. It may be for this reason that I connect with Da Vinci more deeply than with any other artist. I recognize the source of our inspiration to be similar (although I cannot express it as masterfully, not even by far).
My visual art consists in transmuting ordinary pictures (or artworks from masters of the past) in wild ways, without any hand drawing involved, creating with reality as we see it a new visionary reality of psychic and archetypal nature.
Leonardo and I are worlds apart, and yet I have a special intuition for him. Fortuitous circumstances led me to do research on Leonardo and Mona Lisa and find visual and historical evidence in support of an uncomfortable theory about her identity. I presented my findings in the article Mona Lisa is not Mona Lisa: On Da Vinci’s Life, Sexuality, and Inspiration, which attracted unexpected interest and gave me the opportunity of debating with two leading Da Vinci experts.
Works by Leonardo have frequently appeared in my creations, here you can see some examples (click to open slideshow).
I also called my newborn son Leonardo. It’s not my intention to charge him with expectations but I hope the name he bears will make him proud of his Italian roots and inspire him to be a free man with a humanist outlook.
That’s all I share with Leonardo Da Vinci. Maybe also some personality trait. It’s not little but not even too much. It makes life more interesting on my side, and that’s all that counts.