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Transcript: Leonardo in London?
It’s 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci. More than 500 of his drawings are held in Britain’s Royal Collection. There’ve been small exhibitions of them in cities round the country, and a larger selection’s now on show at Buckingham Palace till October, with a further exhibition to follow in Edinburgh.
Leonardo often wrote on his drawings. He used mirror writing, which seems oddseltsamodd. But he was left-handed, and no doubt found it easier to write from right to left, given that paper back then was quite bumpyunebenbumpy. As for actual mirror writing, well, why make life simple when you’re a genius?
The drawings were brought to Britain in the 17th century, and were finally given to King Charles II. What a shame Leonardo didn’t come here in person. I’m sure he’d have found plenty of work.
Hans Holbein certainly did. Born in Augsburg, he had come to London via Basle only a few years after Leonardo’s death, and produced portraits of Henry VIII and his family. Surely, a younger Henry, soon after he’d come to the throne, would’ve liked to have his portrait done by the great Leonardo.
Would the mirror writing have helped him or to hinderbehindern, aufhaltenhindered him professionally? It’s not always wise to be ahead of your time. If they’d had more ambulances, he might have offered to write the word “ambulance” backwards on the front, as is usually done now to make sure other road users recognize the vehicles in their mirrors. But a horse and cartPferdefuhrwerkhorse and cart with wing mirrorAußenspiegelwing mirrors was a rarity in the Renaissance. So was an ambulance.
What about the hospitality industry? Leonardo’s design for the Last Supper might have been useful in restaurants. How else do you tell customers that the kitchen’s closed and food is no longer being served? And he could always have painted the signs that hang outside or stand on the pavement (UK)Gehsteig, Gehwegpavement. In the case of La Gioconda, perhaps it’s the painting that takes its name from a trattoria, not the other way round.
Are we absolutely sure that Leonardo didn’t come to Britain in his lifetime? I really think Sotheby’s and Christie’s should check out some of our pub signs. There could still be some real Leonardos to flap about (ifml.)herumhängen, klappernflapping about outside pubs like the Fox and Hounds in Britain’s wet and windy weather. That painting called Lady with an ermineHermelinErmine was probably sold off when the pub it belonged to was closed and to redevelopsanierenredeveloped.
I to suspectbefürchten, vermutensuspect, though, that Leonardo’s mirror writing would have to land sb. in hot waterjmdn. in Teufels Küche bringenlanded him in hot water on occasions. Imagine the angry scene when the wine shop discovered that the person it had hired to paint its sign liked to spell his words backwards.
“Here’s the new sign for your wine shop, sir. I’ve done it in Italian like you told me: enoteca.”
“What do you mean, enoteca? The way you’ve written it, it looks more like ‘acetone’. How to daresich trauen, etw. wagendare you say my Prosecco tastes like acetone! That’s what they use to make nail polish removerNagellackentfernernail polish remover.”
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