by Marc Kompaneyets
Forget the “da Vinci Code.” How about the da Vinci satire? There’s plenty to decode in this playful ode to Leonardo and other quirky geniuses.
The squishiness of bugs, the bounciness of sausage – the world is full of things in need of measuring, and Hieronymus’ passion is for knowing it all. Until one day he finds a white hair that fails to match the other 36 million in his collection, setting him on a quest for its origins.
He meets the noisy Bobnatobs, the credulous Pabnayabish and the fearful Yabodabos. But it’s finally his sleepy assistant, Pieter, himself the master of 234 napping techniques, who notes the hair matches those on his master’s head.
“Know thyself” may date from Shakespeare, but that’s just one of the sly literary and artistic references to keep literate readers awake. End Hieronymus with “Bosch” and Pieter with “Bruegel” for the source of his devilishly misanthropic depictions. Add a dose of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver (Bobnatob or Brobdignag? You decide) for some added smirks.
He borrows Leonardo’s signature chiaroscuro, a method of using dark tones to add depth, not to mention his yen for peculiar bits of research. Sepia paper adds to the ancient feel, along with a landscape ripped from the Mona Lisa’s background, and a crammed laboratory worthy of an alchemist.
There’s almost too much going on, but smug, overeducated types like myself finally have the perfect book for showing off all our expensive smarts.