Modern-day da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci lived from 1452 to 1519, which means his heyday was right around the time Columbus landed in America.
Yet his attraction has remained strong. Here are a few of the ways da Vinci has popped up in modern popular culture:
• “The Da Vinci Code” – This 2003 novel by Dan Brown was based on the idea that “The Last Supper” and other da Vinci works contained coded clues to uncover a vast historical/religious conspiracy. It was one of the top-selling books of the decade and became a hit movie starring Tom Hanks. The story also contains references to da Vinci’s famous “Vitruvian Man.”
• “Vitruvian Man” – This instantly familiar drawing, which illustrates the ideal, geometrical proportions of the human body, decorates the Italian euro coin. It has also been adapted as a patch on NASA’s “spacewalk” space suit and shows up on certain Apple computer icons.
• “The Mona Lisa” – The inscrutable smile has had mustaches painted on it by Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dali. Gary Larson’s “The Far Side Gallery 3” featured a cover showing Mona Lisa as a cow (or pig?).
In 1999, a New Yorker magazine cover depicted Monica Lewinski as the Mona Lisa. Miss Piggy and Snoopy have also been subsituted.
Rocker Graham Parker titled an album “Mona Lisa’s Sister,” featuring a cigarette-smoking Mona on the cover. The band Panic at the Disco named one of its songs “The Ballad of Mona Lisa.” And there was a popular French band called Mona Lisa.
A 1986 British film, starring Bob Hoskins, was titled “Mona Lisa” and a 2003 Julia Roberts movie was titled “Mona Lisa Smile.”
• “The Last Supper” – This famous image has been adapted, either in homage or in parody, by many contemporary artists, including Dali and Andy Warhol. Others have rendered it in Bosco chocolate syrup (Vik Muniz) and carved it out of salt (in a Polish salt mine).
The tableau has been re-created on many movies and TV shows, including “M*A*S*H,” “The Simpsons” and “That ’70s Show.” Several films have been titled “The Last Supper,” including a 1995 Cameron Diaz movie.
Black Sabbath issued a concert documentary DVD called “The Last Supper,” which featured the painting on the cover.
And, of course, the image is frequently seen, in roadside stands, in velvet.
– Jim Kershner