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Sign of change

Leonardo da Vinci and transgenderism

Contemporary Art | In the context of Leonardo da Vinci’s 500th birthday, the exhibition La Joconde nue at the Condé de Chantilly Museum presents the public with the emblematic life-size bust portrait of a stripped woman in the same posture as Mona Lisa, sporting the same enigmatic smile. This double nakedness founds the prototype of ambiguous beauty and questions the very current phenomenon of transgenderism.

Atelier de Léonard de Vinci, La Joconde nue (détails)
Chantilly, musée Condé, DE-32 © RMN-Grand Palais domaine de Chantilly-Michel Urtado18-542566
Atelier de Léonard de Vinci, La Joconde nue (détails)
Chantilly, musée Condé, DE-32

© RMN-Grand Palais domaine de Chantilly-Michel Urtado18-542566

Who is she or who is he? Is it the portrait of a courtesan or the disguised one of Salai, his favorite disciple?
If the hair tied at the top of the head refers to a sculpture from the Antiquity, the Capitol Venus, this disturbing work, seldom known by the general public, is now elevated to the rank of androgynous icon.
It manifests a changing identity where myth and real portrait are confused; a character with a two-sided sexuality so attractive and enigmatic that the director Pier Paolo Pasolini considered devoting a study to it.

Atelier de Léonard de Vinci, La Joconde nue
Chantilly, musée Condé, DE-32 © RMN-Grand Palais domaine de Chantilly-Michel Urtado18-542566
Atelier de Léonard de Vinci, La Joconde nue Chantilly, musée Condé, DE-32
© RMN-Grand Palais domaine de Chantilly-Michel Urtado18-542566

The attribution of this drawing, acquired in 1862 by Henry of Orleans, Duke of Aumale, founder of the Condé de Chantilly museum, to Leonardo da Vinci continued to be debated until the curator, Mathieu Deldicque, had it analyzed for close to three years to understand its origin and history.

The scientific research and restoration analysis by the C2RM and the laboratory of France’s museums recently revealed that this drawing is « probably » from the master’s hand or from his workshop; the traces of a left-handed artist and the changes reflect the repentance process. In addition, the cardboard is pierced with small stitching holes to transfer its contours on another support to do the painting. This masterpiece gave rise in Europe to the fashion of nude female portraits, as witnessed by numerous copies and variations from the 16th century.

Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs, Anonyme © RMN - Grand Palais musée du Louvre Tony Querrec
Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs, Anonyme
© RMN - Grand Palais musée du Louvre Tony Querrec

The Renaissance, like our contemporary period, is characterized by profound societal changes and marks new fields of experience and freedoms; the gender fluidity that stems from it oddly resonates with new generations’ practices such as pansexuality or omnisexuality.

Jeanette Zwingenberger
Publié le 04/07/2019
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Version française

Atelier de Léonard de Vinci, La Joconde nue (détails) 
Chantilly, musée Condé, DE-32 © RMN-Grand Palais domaine de Chantilly-Michel Urtado18-542566

Atelier de Léonard de Vinci, La Joconde nue (détails)
Chantilly, musée Condé, DE-32

© RMN-Grand Palais domaine de Chantilly-Michel Urtado18-542566

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