05 August 2012
This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Stephen McGinty of The Scotsman. Mr. McGinty let me in on a bit of a mystery that is brewing in Perthshire. Fiona McLaren claims to be in possession of a lost da Vinci painting that depicts Mary Magdalene with two children. To up the ante, there is a Papal Bull attached to the back of the painting. Mr. McGinty's article, "Neglected portrait could be new Da Vinci Code painting" can be found by clicking the title's link.
At the time I spoke with McGinty, I had not seen or heard of the find. McGinty was speaking to me for my initial impressions of the story. After seeing the image and the full story behind the find, I'm cautiously optimistic and hold to my comments in the article. If the painting isn't a forgery, and depicts McLaren's interpretation of the painting's subjects, it's big news to those who follow a bloodline interpretation of the Grail. Unfortunately, I have a feeling I know what will happen to this find.
Assuming McLaren has a painting from the 15th Century, the art experts will come out of the woodwork with their opinions about the piece. No matter what the conclusion the experts come to regrading the providence of the painting, the subject matter will be branded as anything but that of Mary Magdalen. (Truth be told, when I first saw the image I thought the child on the left is wearing a hair-shirt. If that's the case, it would seem that the painting is of John the Baptist, Jesus, and either the virgin Mary or John's mother Elizabeth.) I would seriously doubt that anyone in the art community would go out on a limb to say Mary Magdalen with children was the subject of a painting commissioned by Francis I. If an art expert did go on the record that the female is Mary Magdalen, that expert would be branded "a Da Vinci Code nutter".
The controversy that is sure to surround the painting will ensure the piece and Mrs. McLaren's theories will be pronounced dead on arrival. Dr. Kemp's statements in the article are only the beginning to those who will be in lockstep waiting to pass judgement before any evidence is seen. If you notice, Kemp's first thoughts were of "secret codes" embedded in the painting and thus dismissed any possibilities the painting holds out of hand. I don't really blame Kemp for jumping to conclusion that "all you people are stuffing ten pounds of conspiracy in a nine pound sack of logic". As a rule, our community does a poor job of representing itself to the mainstream.
We've evidently done a good enough job of finding conspiracies under every bushel that an Oxford Art Professor showed no interest in a previously unknown da Vinci. Our tin foil hats would seem to have outshone a potentially masterful work of art. I'm by no means advocating that anyone out there stop questioning the accepted account of anything. There are hidden histories, secret societies, codes, and real/intellectual treasures out there. Those things are just not always out there.
I confess that I have my own moments of Pi-esque mania and there's nothing wrong with that. (At least I hope there's nothing wrong with that...) We all have a responsibility to do our due diligence before sounding off to the world. Half thought through theories, logical fallacies, poor scholarship, and outright fantasies harm every single one of us. I do hate to be a wet blanket, but I include myself in this terse rant. I can safely say I've never taken fictional license with a posting here, but in the other cases I'm sure I've fallen victim to my own enthusiasm.
The point of the matter is that the better job we do in presenting our cases, the easier people like Mrs. McLaren will have in the future. She obviously has something that is worthy of scrutiny. I simply hope it is examined in such a way that the complete truth will be seen. If Mrs. McLaren doesn't get a fair shake, we have only ourselves to blame.