Leonardo’s Knots is “not” a tasty Italian pastry — but it is almost as appetizing.
Leonardo is Leonardo da Vinci, the 15th century Renaissance painter, engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor and architect; he was a genius best known for his painting of the Mona Lisa.
His “knots” are two lines intersecting that are found in his paintings — he only created a dozen in his lifetime — and his thousands of pages of writings. The “knots” combine da Vinci’s love for art with his love for mathematics.
Author Caroline Cocciardi mesmerized Rotarians of the Lake Houston area at their Wednesday meeting Aug. 25 with her intricate tale of how she first recognized the embroidery pattern across the top of Mona Lisa’s rather plain, peasant-type dress.
“Mona Lisa, we are told, was the wife of a Florentine merchant.
You would think the husband would have lavished her in silk rather than in a common house dress,” Cocciardi said.
Always modest throughout her presentation, Cocciardi admitted anyone who has studied da Vinci and the Mona Lisa could have seen what she saw “ … I just happened to see it first.”
What Cocciardi saw was the embroidery pattern across the bodice of her dress.
“I recognized it was not decorative but mathematical and his decision to paint it broke all fashion codes of the day,” she said.
Why did he paint the knots and what does it mean?
Cocciardi spent the next half-hour enlightening the Rotarians, many who admitted that they had seen the Mona Lisa in person at the Louvre in Paris. And just like a well-plotted television mystery, Cocciardi methodically dropped nuggets of da Vinci information as she progressed to her climax — the great reveal.
The top row of knots on her bodice are octagons? Why octagons?
Did da Vinci use octagons in other drawings and writings? Yes, he did. Why?
There is no preliminary drawing of Mona Lisa? That is a very common practice among artists. Why not the Mona Lisa?
Cocciardi also discussed da Vinci’s Last Supper noting that it, too, has a knot, just one, a knot of Isis, usually found in Egyptian art, in the tablecloth in the lower right corner of the painting.
Cocciardi didn’t start out to spend lifetime studying the da Vinci knots.
“My goal was to move to Rome,” she said. “After I saw the embroidery pattern across Mona Lisa’s simple dress, I knew that I had to index every Leonardo knot including those in his sketchbooks. Let me tell you, his notebooks are not very organized.”
What she discovered about da Vinci Cocciardi reveals in her coffee table book, “Leonardo’s Knot,” that is particularly suitable for reading. Following her visual presentation, Cocciardi’s book became a bestseller during the Rotary meeting.
“There is no preliminary drawing of Mona Lisa because everything he ever did was preliminary to painting Mona Lisa,” Cocciardi concluded as she prepared to make the big reveal. No spoilers here. Read her book.
The Rotary Club of Lake Houston Area meets Wednesdays, 11:45 a.m., at the Lake Houston YMCA.