The Da Vinci Code 24-26: Why Art Historians Hate This Book

Last time on The Da Vinci Code, Sophie succumbed to the contagious flashbacks that started with Langdon, who appears to be some kind of Typhoid Mary for that kind of thing. The results were almost as creepy as watching old episodes of Jim’ll Fix It in a darkened room, which is unfortunate because I think the author intended them to be charming.

Sophie found a key and it was something to do with the Priory of Sion or some such shit, but nobody really cared because we were all too busy pouring out the hand sanitizer for our fallen homie, Bar of Soap, the most exquisitely realised character in the novel so far.

Chapter Twenty Four

Opens with this pair of interesting sentences.

Silas gazed upwards at the Saint-Sulpice obelisk, taking in the length of the massive marble shaft. His sinews felt taut with exhilaration.

I’m not sure how these lines escaped from the memoir Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life, but I’m enjoying them almost as much as Silas is. Silas gets down on his knees and (stop that giggling at the back there) knocks on the floor until he finds a hollow spot. Up in the balcony Sister Sandrine sees him and realises he’s here for a secret purpose. She knows that because she has a secret of her own.

She was a sentry. And tonight, the ancient wheels had been set in motion. The arrival of this stranger at the base of the obelisk was a signal from the brotherhood. It was a silent call of distress.

Why does nobody in this book know how to use a phone?

Chapter Twenty-Five…

…answers my question, or maybe provides a retort, as Bezu Fache has figured out that Sophie pulled a fast one when she said Langdon had a call from the Embassy. And that’s all that happens. Bye, chapter twenty five. We hardly knew ye.

Chapter Twenty-Six

Oh shit. We’re back in the Louvre, and Dan Brown is about to Dan Brown all over the Mona Lisa. Those of an art history disposition may want to look away now.

Painted on a poplar wood panel, her ethereal, mist-filled atmosphere was attributed to Da Vinci’s mastery of the sfumato style, in which forms appear to evaporate into each other.

Oh, let’s repeat a thing we’ve been through before because it’s the only thing you actually looked up. We won’t mention the use of chiaroscuro because it’s even harder to spell. While I’m being pissy, can I also say how annoying I find ‘Da Vinci’? Leonardo Da Vinci literally means Leonardo of Vinci, or Leonardo from Vinci. He didn’t have his father’s name because he was illegitimate. I wouldn’t normally whine about a thing like this, but there’s something about Langdon/Brown’s (Brangdon’s) insufferable intellectual posturing that makes me want to smack him down over every last little, footling thing.

The Mona Lisa was still twenty yards ahead when Sophie turned on the black light and the bluish crescent of penlight fanned out on the floor in front of them. She swung the beam back and forth across the floor like a minesweeper, searching for any hint of luminescent ink.

Your screen treatment yearnings are showing again, Dan.

The Mona Lisa’s status as the most famous piece of art in the world, Langdon knew, had nothing to do with her enigmatic smile [snip] Quite simply the Mona Lisa was famous because Leonardo da Vinci claimed she was his finest accomplishment.

Bullshit. Absolute bullshit. That’s the most famous, most mysterious smile in the world and there is nothing you can say that will make it any different.

The Mona Lisa was, in fact, one of the world’s most documented inside jokes. The painting’s well documented collage of double meanings and playful allusions had been revealed in most art history tomes, and yet, incredibly, the public at large still considered her smile a great mystery.

No mystery at all, Langdon thought, moving forward and watching the faint outline of the painting take shape. No mystery at all.

Did you get that? Brangdon knows why the Mona Lisa is smiling. He’s that good.

Most recently Langdon had shared the Mona Lisa’s secret with a rather unlikely group – a dozen inmates at the Essex County Penetentiary. Langdon’s jail seminar was part of a Harvard outreach programme…

NO NO NO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, NO.

Robert Langdon lecturing convicts about art. I barely glanced at the next paragraph and already I have a strong, stomach-churning presentiment of what comes next. He’s going to turn on the bullshit hose up to blast and all of the prisoners are going to gargle that shit down and ask eagerly for more. Then they’re going to tell him he’s cool and offer to give him gang tattoos, which he politely refuses because he doesn’t want hepatitis.

I may have to start drinking for this one.

Langdon claims that Leonardo painted the horizon line of the portrait lower on one side to give emphasis to the female side. No, really. He says it was to make her look larger from the left as an inside joke, because historically the concepts of male and female are assigned sides. Left is female and right is male. I don’t even know.

“I heard he was a fag,” said a small man with a goatee.

Langdon winced. “Historians don’t generally put it quite that way, but yes – Da Vinci was a homosexual.”

“Is that why he was into that whole feminine thing?”

Yeah, outside of drag performers gay men aren’t really that into ‘that whole feminine thing’, goatee guy. They’re more into it for the whole masculine thing. You know. Cock.

Someone mentions ‘chicks with dicks’ and…

Langdon considered offering an etymological sidebar about the word hermaphrodite and its ties to Hermes and Aphrodite, but something told him it would be lost on this crowd.

I wish he wouldn’t keep doing these teacher time flashbacks. They make me hate him more with every passing moment.

He then goes on to say that the Mona Lisa is deliberately androgynous. Uh, wait. A minute ago he was saying she was bigger on the left as a tribute to the sacred feminine or some such shit. I suppose it’s too much to ask for him to at least keep his smug nonsense consistent.

“…actually Da Vinci left a big clue that the painting was supposed to be androgynous. Has anyone here ever heard of an Egyptian God named Amon?”

You will never believe where this is going. Guess. Go on. Take a punt.

Done?

If you guessed ‘a famous but fictional brand of condoms’ give yourself a pat on the back. And maybe consider checking into a psych ward.

Yes, really. In the world of The Da Vinci Code there is a brand of condoms named Amon, because Amon is the Egyptian God of fertility. There’s a guy with a ram’s head on the box. People buy these and nobody seems to grasp the unfortunate implications of sheepshagging. No, I don’t know, either. I think I need a lie down.

“Well done. Amon is indeed represented as a man with a ram’s head, and his promiscuity and curved horns are related to our modern sexual slang – horny.”

Why is this happening and how do I make it stop?

Someone says ‘no shit’ and Langdon says ‘no shit’ right back. Look at him, dropping the s-bomb after 167 pages. Guess we should start calling him Professor Slangdon now.

But our newly streetwise hero has not finished. He points to Amon’s counterpart, the Egyptian goddess of fertility, Isis. Again, I feel like drinking, because the thing I’m about to recap is so astoundingly fucking stupid that it may very well break your brain. Are you ready for this?

He scrambles the letters of AMON and ISIS to make MONA LISA.

Langdon nodded. “Gentlemen, 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 the Mona Lisa’s knowing smile.”

Okay, stand back, because I’ve had it. This is going to get messy.

The Mona Lisa is called the Mona Lisa because ‘Mona’ is a contraction of the Italian address ‘Madonna’, meaning ‘my lady’. She is named Lisa because her name was probably Lisa – Lisa Gherardini, whose married name was Lisa del Giaconda, hence her Italian name, La Giaconda, which is also one of those serendipitous Italian puns meaning ‘cheerful’ or ‘smiling’. The French name La Joconde, is a transliteration of the Italian. The point is that the Mona Lisa has many names and may not have even been referred to as the Mona Lisa in Leonardo’s life time. In fact it may have even been rude to refer to it as such and so she may – as she is today in Italy – been have referred to as Monna Lisa.

Where is your anagram God now, Langdon?

As for asserting that you know why the Mona Lisa is smiling, well – yeah. I’m just going to leave that one alone, because look at it. There’s nothing I can add to make this claim look any more stupid. It’s like putting a dunce cap on Donald Trump; funny, but ultimately redundant.

Any-fucking-way, back to the Louvre.

Sophie spots blood with the black light, leading her to believe that her grandfather definitely came here. These are dainty spots of blood, by the way – ‘a tiny droplet of dried liquid’. Again, I’m really not sure that ‘tiny droplets’are what happens when you’re shot in the gut with a Heckler and Koch USP 40, but let’s pretend.

Then they shine the black light and there are six words written on the glass in front of the Mona Lisa.

I’M TICKLING YOUR BALLS AGAIN, SUCKERS.

No, they’re not that. But they may as well be.

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