Thu, Dec 04, 2014 - Page 5 News List

‘Chinese Mona Lisa’ theory raises eyebrows, frenzy


An Italian historian’s theory that the subject of the Mona Lisa might be a Chinese slave and Leonardo da Vinci’s mother — making the 15th-century polymath half-Chinese — sent online commentators into a frenzy yesterday.

Angelo Paratico, a Hong Kong-based historian and novelist from Italy, told the South China Morning Post: “On the back of the Mona Lisa, there is a Chinese landscape and even her face looks Chinese.”

Chinese Web users expressed astonishment and disbelief, posting dozens of parodies of the painting, with various faces grafted over her delicate features.

Little is known about Caterina, the mother of the artist, writer, mathematician and inventor, and the identity of the sitter for the portrait hanging in Paris’ Louvre has long been a matter of debate.

Paratico, who is finishing a book entitled Leonardo da Vinci: a Chinese scholar lost in Renaissance Italy, cited Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud’s 1910 assumption that the painting was inspired by the artist’s mother.

“One wealthy client of Leonardo’s father had a slave called Caterina. After 1452 — Leonardo’s date of birth — she disappeared from the documents,” he said.

The evidence for a Chinese link appears to be slight, with Paratico saying he was sure — “up to a point” — that da Vinci’s mother was Asian.

Many Sina Weibo users were incredulous.

“I am so sad that you thought I am a foreigner,” one wrote, with an image of a frowning Mona Lisa holding rolls of toilet paper and blowing her nose. “I would rather be from wherever I am loved.”

Another user appended unlikely faces ranging from Chinese male comedian Zhao Benshan (趙本山) and British actor Rowan Atkinson to a grimacing robot holding a Mona Lisa mask.

The topic had been viewed more than 4 million times by midday yesterday.

“I now understand why her smile looks so mysterious and concealed — it is typically Chinese,” a user said.

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