BBC News 30th Oct 2014
The Leonardo hidden from Hitler in case it gave him magic powers
One of the world’s most famous self-portraits is going on rare public display in the northern Italian city of Turin. Very little is known about the 500-year-old, fragile, fading red chalk drawing of Leonardo da Vinci but some believe it has mystical powers.
There is a myth in Turin that the gaze of Leonardo da Vinci in this self-portrait is so intense that those who observe it are imbued with great strength.
Some say it was this magical power, not the cultural and economic value of the drawing, that led to it being secretly moved from Turin and taken to Rome during World War Two - heaven forbid it should ever fall into Hitler’s hands and give him more power.
Whatever the reason, this was the only work from the entire collection of precious drawings and manuscripts to be removed from the Royal Library in Turin at the time.
The library’s current director, Giovanni Saccani, says nobody even knows exactly where it was hidden. “To prevent the Nazis from taking it, an intelligence operation saw it transported in absolute anonymity to Rome.”
You can find the image here:
Interestingly, when I searched “da vinci self portrait” on google images, lots of them seem to have been altered in an image-editing program and especially to have darker pupils, don’t know if a lot of different versions exist or whether this is because subsequent online people tried to add that focal point to the eys, but I think the BBC version I posted a link to on an image-hosting site is unedited in that way.
For me this brings up the concept of “darshan” from Hinduism, the simultaneous seeing, and being seen BY, a godform, in which (sometimes) some aspect of that god is realised within - if da Vinci was in touch with a rare kind of genius, maybe locking eyeballs with him will convey some of the good stuff to you…