Friday, January 08, 2010

Want publicity? Announce something about Mona Lisa

Some so-called researcher in Italy just announced that he has "diagnosed" the illnesses of a large number of subjects of famous paintings. The pathetically credulous news media take this without any grains of salt at all, and announce the claim as if it's a real discovery -- especially featuring what he says about Mona Lisa. Like Linus with Lucy's football, they constantly fall for anyone who claims a new insight about Mona Lisa.

The BBC article about this (dare I call it a hoax?) linked to a number of similar stories about Mona Lisa. To show you what I mean about credibility, here are some of the headlines with dates:
  • Mona Lisa 'had high cholesterol' (2010)
  • Mona Lisa 'had brows and lashes' (2007)
  • Mona Lisa 'happy', computer finds (2005)
  • Mona Lisa smile secrets revealed (2003)
  • Mona Lisa pregnancy theory mooted (2006)
To continue about the latest claim of medical insight: another, more sensational newspaper listed all the paintings "diagnosed" by this attention-seeking charlatan. (Only a charlatan would claim to diagnose diseases from a picture without other evidence. Would you let someone diagnose your illness from just a photo? Without even asking your symptoms? I don't think so.)

Here's the claim made about one painting, by Lucien Freud (right):
DUBBED "Big Sue", this 1995 painting by British artist Freud fetched an incredible $33million at auction.
"There are many examples of obesity in art and the subject in this would be classified as obese."
How did this genius ever figure out that the woman in this painting is obese? Because she's called "Big Sue"? Because that's what it's famous for? How could they fall for such a shallow announcement? Most of his other claims are equally unimpressive, though he sometimes mentions more obscure conditions than obesity.


Jens Zorn said...

I have long held that Giacometti's subjects were anorexic. Who could possibly argue with that?

Jeanie said...

Did you hear the news report today speculating that Mona is a self portrait of Leonardo? I missed part of it, but I thought they said they wanted to dig him up (or something related -- a journal maybe?) to find out for sure. This is how rumors get started -- by people who only hear PART of a story!

Mae Travels said...

I heard the proposal to dig up Leonardo because of the claim that Mona Lisa is a self portrait. The claim actually has been around for quite a while: long enough to be thoroughly discredited. Of course no one ever listens to the reasons why it's false. I'll write something about that some time.