Hermetic da Vinci
Professor Martin Kemp of OxfordUniversity, is one of the word’s leading authorities on Leonardo da Vinci.. With Marina Wallace, he is the Director of UNIVERSAL LEONARDO, an absolutely stunning website on da Vinci. Martin Gayford, writing in ARTnews, says:
“To take an example Kemp has written about, what links a map of Tuscan river patterns, a detailed study of a dissected female body, and the Mona Lisa? The answer, Kemp says, is that the veins, arteries, and other sundry tubing in human anatomy and the streams of the Apennines were to Leonardo, not just similar but large and small examples of the same thing. The macrocosm of the wide world—the rivers, mountains, and lakes in the wonderful, cosmic landscape behind the Mona Lisa—was reflected in the microcosm of man (or woman). In Kemp’s reading, Leonardo would have thought of the scenery as a metaphor for the bodily mechanisms of the lady herself.
When Leonardo examined the corpse of a centenarian, Kemp says, he concluded that the old man had succumbed to the “silting” of his blood vessels— exactly the kind of process that would lead a river system to sclerosis. To Kemp, the drawing he labels “Irrigation systems’ of the female body: respiratory, vascular and urino-genital” (1507—8) is a masterpiece comparable to the Mona Lisa. More than that, it is, partly at least, about the same subject.
Of course, the Mona Lisa started off as a portrait of a particular person, Lisa Gherardini. But it became something more and different, and in fact was never delivered to Gherardini’s husband, who had presumably commissioned it. The landscape in the background is a poetic summary of Leonardo’s surveys of central Italian geography, which he had carried out for military and economic reasons. In front of the majestic system of the world, with its rivers and peaks, stands the woman—who Leonardo knew consisted, in part, of an intricate array of capillaries, valves, organs, and liquids. Microcosm recapitulates macrocosm: so there is one Leonardo mystery partly decoded.”
From: Martin Gayford, Decoding da Vinci, ARTnews, March 2007, pp. 134 – 137.
Using the axiom, As Above, So Below, from the Emerald Table, the above points to the essential Hermetic vision of Leonardo da Vinci, in its microcosmic and macrocosmic applications.