Thursday, 5 June 2008
Extract from Salvador Dalí, Diary of a Genius:
May 13th, 1956
A journalist comes to New York to ask me what I think of Leonardo's Mona Lisa. I tell him:
'I am a very great admirer of Marcel Duchamp, who happens to be the man who has made those famous transformations on the face of the Gioconda. He drew a very small moustache on her, a moustache that was itself Dalínian. Below the photograph he added in very small letters which were only just legible: "L.H.O.O.Q." "Elle a chaud au cu!" ("She's got a red-hot arse"). For myself, I have always admired that attitude of Duchamp's, which at the time amounted to an even more important question: whether or not the Louvre should be burned down. At that time, I was already a fervent admirer of ultra-retrograde painting, incarnated by the great Meissonier, whom I have always considered to be a painter very superior to Cézanne. And of course I was one of of those who said that the Louvre should not be burned down. Up to now, I see that my view on the subject has been taken into consideration: the Louvre has not been burned down. It is obvious that if a sudden decision is taken to burn it down, the Gioconda must be saved and if need be even transported with all dispatch to America. And not only because she is psychologically very fragile. Throughout the world, there exists an absolute Giocondolotary. Many people have attacked the Gioconda, notably some years ago when stones were thrown at her - a perfect example of a flagrant case of aggression against one's own mother. Knowing all Freud thought about Leonardo da Vinci, all that the latter's art kept hidden in his subconscious, it is easy to deduce that he was in love with his mother when he painted the Gioconda. Without realising it, he painted someone who has all the sublimated maternal attributes. She has big breasts, and she looks upon those who contemplate her in a wholly maternal way. At the same time, she smiles in an equivocal manner. Everybody has seen, and can still see today, that there was a very decisive element of eroticism in that equivocal smile. So, what happens to the poor wretch who is possessed by an Oedipus complex - that is, the complex of being in love with his mother? He goes into a museum. A museum is a house open to the public. In his subconscious it is a brothel. And in this brothel he sees represented the prototype of the image of every mother. The agonising presence of his mother gives him a tender look and an equivocal smile and drives him to a criminal act. He commits matricide by picking up the first thing that comes to hand, a stone, and destroying the painting. It is a typical piece of paranoiac aggression...'
On leaving the journalist said to me: 'It was worth the trip!'
I should think it was worth the trip! I watched him climbing the hill, deep in thought. As he walked, he bent down to pick up a stone.