Fred Sanders at Middlebrow has written a short and enjoyable post on the more laughable art history errors in Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code. Sanders calls his piece 9 Art Bloopers in the DaVinci Code. Here are a couple:
1. It’s Leonardo, not DaVinci. He’s one-name famous, like Elvis and Cher. “Da Vinci” means “the guy from Vinci.” He signed his work “Leonardo,” not “DaVinci.” I admit this complaint is a little snobby, sort of like insisting that Aquinas isn’t named Aquinas, he’s Thomas, from Aquino. On one hand, everybody knows who you’re talking about if you use the faux last name -partly because the towns of Vinci and Aquino aren’t exactly swarming with superfamous citizens. On the other hand, if you’ve done extensive research, you’d be pretty likely to have read a few books and articles by experts, who invariably, exclusively, habitually call the guy Leonardo and wouldn’t be caught dead calling him DaVinci. …
3. The Mona Lisa didn’t go by that name. We don’t know what name it went by during Leonardo’s lifetime, but it was the biographer Vasari who called it Mona Lisa long after Leonardo’s death, and the name didn’t really stick as definitive until the 19th century. This only matters if, following “symbologist” Robert Langdon’s lead, you’re supposed to re-arrange the letters to spell Amon L’Isa. Not a challenging anagram, exactly, and not very enlightening at that. But the point is that if you did this, you’d be re-arranging letters Leonardo didn’t arrange in the first place, which would be silly.
Dan Brown is a rather ordinary writer of popular fiction who has figured out how to turn words into money. The DaVinci Code may be good alchemy, but it is a very shoddy work of history.
Via Mere Orthodoxy