Re-initializing Da Vinci
“Excuse me, sir!” said a 10 year-old boy while approaching the counter behind which stood an aged man.
The boy held out his hands holding a large frame that’s covered with a silky cloth. The man unfolded the soft material and shockingly became astounded; before him—before his very eyes—was a portrait of Mona Lisa.
Garrick Dumont, the man’s real name, was a French art historian for over 20 years, and has taught art history at Cambridge University. Dumont had spent most of his academic career studying the Renaissance from 14th to 16th centuries. He was mostly interested in the work of the star of the late Renaissance, Leonardo Da Vinci. The Mona Lisa portrait drew his attention upon graduation from college, so he decided to learn more about the Renaissance man and unravel the secrets behind his masterpiece—Mona Lisa.
Dumont became successful at answering many questions about the portrait, such as the time it took Leonardo to finish it and what materials—if not all—he used to complete it. Unfortunately, Dumont was not able to answer—like many scholars and art historians couldn’t—the most important question: how did the Renaissance man make such fine portrait?
Now in his 60s Dumont retired from teaching and decided to follow a casual life, and that is opening his own shop where he could buy antiques from customers. He had this fondness for antiques that he wished to compile as much as possible to make up his own collection.
After retirement Dumont built his own shop called “Dumont’s Antiquities,” which is situated in uptown part of Seattle, where his shop was considered to be the least attractive in comparison with other commercial stores. So far he bought twenty-six antiques from costumers, few of which were sculptures and old pictures showing soldiers in 1916 during World War 1, others being coins that were almost 300 years old—all of them he bought from his Retirement Savings Account. But today was completely different; a piece of art he had yearned to have in his possession was right in front of him. This could be the greatest moment of his life, he thought.
“I want to sell Lola Corola for $100,000, mister,” the boy finally said.
Dumont thought it was a joke. Even though Mona Lisa is worth more than the price, he couldn’t afford even for $1,000. The man thought it was a fake portrait.
“You mean Mona Lisa, not Lola Corola,” the man corrected him.
“I call it Lola Corola,” the boy went on.
“Do you know the man who painted this piece?” Dumont said. The boy shook his head.
Dumont thought of two possible explanations: the Lola Corola—according to the boy—must be a fake portrait, or it’s an actual Mona Lisa that must’ve been stolen from the museum in Italy. The man knew the latter seemed ludicrous since it’s impossible for the boy to steal a popular painting. Maybe an adult stole it and gave it to him?
Dumont looked at the portrait for a while as he was trying to recollect his memories of the time he got to actually see the painting in detail, though did not touch or even see it closely. He realized the frame was different; it was a plastic frame he’d seen at some store only for photos or portraits of people. The painting seemed slightly smaller than the one he’d seen, but still he denied it was the actual painting. He looked at the enigmatic smile of the woman sitting; the authenticity of her smile brought warmth to his heart. Dumont wanted the painting so dearly that he once had a dream of having a large Mona Lisa painting hanged on the wall in his office.
The man became desperate to examine the piece that the boy wanted to sell to confirm whether it’s the actual one or just another masterpiece made by someone else.
“Young man, I need a moment to analyze it so that I will decide whether to buy it or not,” he said while looking down at the boy, who wore his grade school uniform.
The boy nodded and said nothing.
“Meanwhile you’re free to look around my shop. There are cool stuff in here.”
“I think I’ll wait here,” the boy said.
The man gave a slight nod, then carefully grabbed the painting and brought it to a table where he would normally take time examining the antiques before thinking about buying them. He then placed the painting on a glass under which light projected outward, with an additional overhead lamp that emitted ultraviolet light. Dumont pulled out a magnifying glass from his shirt pocket and brought it closer to the painting, examining the color and texture of it. The Mona Lisa contains so many details that it took scholars a while to identify the components, but Dumont knew how to tell whether something is real after having being trained for years.
The man set his magnifying glass aside, removed his eyeglasses, and sighed. The man muttered to himself, “This can’t be real!” He knew the painting was Mona Lisa, or perhaps a perfect replica of the original by Da Vinci. He remained seated, trying to wrestle over the thought that it was stolen.
The man went over to where the telephone was and dialed the number he’d memorized after his first visit to the museum’s Salle des États. After dialing came a voice on the other end of the line. However, an anonymous person spoke in Italian.
“Uh, I’m sorry. I’m American,” Dumont said, following silence. Finally, another voice came, this time the person spoke in English.
“Hello, how may I help you?”
“Yes, uh, my name is Garrick Dumont. I have a question I would like to ask.” Dumont didn’t understand why he made the call even though deep down he knew it wasn’t stolen. “Has there been any news about the Mona Lisa being stolen?”
“No sir, the Mona Lisa is still on display. What made you think that?” the man asked.
“Never mind,” he said and hung up.
Dumont remained seated while thinking about the boy. Could he be the next Da Vinci, his mind never ceased to think so. He felt somehow another reason to believe a new age of Renaissance has begun. It would be astonishing if the boy did paint his Lola Corola. The only problem is, he couldn’t afford it—he would even triple the price if he were rich enough.
The man returned with the painting and found the boy still standing on the same spot.
“Young man, did you draw this?” he asked. The boy nodded but said not a word.
“How long it took you to do this?”
“Three weeks,” the boy finally spoke.
“You did it by imagination or simply copying the work?”
“I looked at the picture on the Internet once and painted it.”
Very impressive, thought the man. He took a deep breath, hoping to get his answer to the most difficult question. He finally looked at the kid and asked.
“How did you do it?”
“Mommy said never tell a secret to anybody,” the boy declared.
“Seems like your mom’s right,” he said. Though the boy responded with a shrug.
“Do you want Lola Corola for $100,000?” the boy began.
“Don’t you think that’s too high?” Dumont said, even though he knew the painting’s priceless.
The boy shrugged again.
“How about $500?” the man decided to outsmart the kid. “You can do a lot with $500, like go to Disney World, visit Mount Everest, walk on the moon, everything you want.” Dumont knew lying to the kid was wrong, but he wanted the painting really bad—like his greedy inner self decided to take over the righteous side of him.
The kid abruptly took the painting, covered it with the silky cloth in an elegant way, and looked directly into the man’s eyes as if disappointed.
“No thank you, sir,” the boy said and readily left the shop.
Dumont thought hard about giving him a reasonable prize and decided to go after the boy. Unfortunately, once outside the shop, the boy was out of sight. The man looked around but no sign of the boy.
Dumont returned inside, went behind the counter and pulled out a cigar from a drawer that he’d kept for four years—even though he did quit smoking, after missing what could’ve been the biggest moment of his life, decided to smoke again. He lit the cigar while seated in a chair, inhaled the smoke as he contemplated the ceiling, and exhaled. He closed his eyes and finally decided to say the words he thought would be his final chance before it’s too late—before his time in this world would end. “Oh, fuck me!”