Recently I, by accident, happened to be in a group that got discussing painters, musicians and sculptors of classical vintage. Plenty of words that are not generally featured in household dictionaries were bandied about, while I, clueless and helpless, looked on, not unlike Azhagiri during a parliamentary debate.
It was then I decided that this predicament should not befall others like me. Poring through some serious stuff on classical music/paintings/sculpture, I have come up with these bite-sized info pieces on popular classical arty things. After reading this, people need no longer come across as borderline idiot like I did. They can manifest themselves as confirmed morons.
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci: The moment the name Mona Lisa is uttered, true classical art aficionados cannot but help think of that unmistakably enigmatic smile, belonging to T Rajendhar, the man behind the immortal Monisha En Monalisa.
Anyway, Mona Lisa is a portrait of a woman who, going by her expression, is neither happy nor unhappy, but merely constipated. This oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci has been subject of many major studies, including those on the identity of the person.
Everyone knew it was an Italian lady, but thanks to Subramaniam Swamy only now has the world realised that it is indeed Sonia Gandhi. The irrepressible Swamy has unravelled all the symbolism in his latest book in Tamil, appropriately titled The Da Vinci Code (‘code’ is Tamil for ‘line’).
The power of this single painting, housed at Louvre, the museum in Paris, can be gauged by the fact that hundreds and hundreds of tourists bunch up daily with the single artistic thought coursing through their minds: ‘Sheesh, did we spend thousands of dollars just to view this?’
Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo: The saga of Michelangelo can be classically termed as the triumph of mind over matter, otherwise defined as, well, we don’t know. It’s a usage in English that we were familiar with, and we kind of felt that it would sound nice in this place.
The famed Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, engineer and possibly Municipal Commissioner of Venice, painted many of his famous murals on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel. Now most of you maybe wondering why would anyone want to paint, what are supposed to be masterpieces, on the ceiling, when your Pongal whitewash fellow can hardly get his brush across the top.
This is where Michelangelo’s engineering brain came into play. He had smartly worked out that if a huge painting, with a lot of naked people around, is put on the ceiling, no one dare hang a fan from it. So this brainwave straightaway lead to the invention of window AC.
Also, when you put pictures of naked people on the ceiling, you actually give people something to look up to during boring moral discourses.
Symphony No 9 by Beethoven: The German genius recorded this brilliant musical opus in Vienna (Austria), creating an unmistakable musical legacy for a succession of music directors who now know what it takes to compose a symphony: Record it in a country other than yours. Following his footsteps, for his Thiruvasagam, Ilayaraja travelled to Hungary, a country that otherwise has as much connection with this hallowed Tamil hymn as does Paravai Muniamma have with Pavarotti.
Beethoven infused into this symphony certain musical parts that he had composed elsewhere for some other purpose. We know what you are thinking —- yes, he seemed to be the A R Rahman of his time. Beethoven started working on this symphony in 1818 and finished it by 1824 — exactly the time that Rahman would need to complete a song, if he were in extreme urgency.
When you listen to foreign music in Tamil Nadu many people will accuse you of being a show-off. But when you play Beethoven’s music, which transcends time, the same people will change their mind and accuse you of being a classical show-off.
The Thinker by Rodin: An iconic series of sculptures, they primarily depict a pensive man, with his knuckles on the chin, sitting muscularly unclad on a stone, possibly ruminating over the philosophical question: Where the hell are my clothes? In a sense, if you are ready to overlook its decidedly higher IQ, the sculpture could be Salman Khan.
Rodin, according to historical texts, had originally named the sculpture, The Poet. But when even after four or five years, not even a single poem was forthcoming from it, Rodin probably understood his folly and settled for an appellation befitting its stature of seemingly sitting serious all day but actually doing nothing: Manmohan Singh.
But since it had better facial expressions and superior oratorical skills, Rodin may have eventually chosen the name The Thinker.
It is no ordinary sculpture, but provides the metaphorical message that thinking human beings can be fooled into looking for metaphorical messages in an unthinking stone just because it’s named The Thinker.
This is the power of true art!