Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Divine Mona Lisa

Forty nine years ago today, on January 8th 1963, visitors to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC stared in amazement at the original Mona Lisa. Close inspection of the original work of art (on loan for the first time to the USA) revealed that she lacked any facial hair. Not only did she not have the mom-stache popular with some electrolysis-avoiding dark-haired Europeans; she lacked eyebrows and eyelashes. They were told that genteel women in the 16th century plucked them out because they were unsightly. In 2007 Pascal Cotte discovered through the use of ultra-high-resolution scans of the painting that Leonardo had painted Mona with eyelashes and eyebrows, but centuries of age and cleaning had removed them.

Some people believe that the Mona Lisa is a self portrait of Leanardo da Vinci in drag.

Cotte’s discovery may have come too late for a Harris Milstead. The famous painting went on display mere weeks before young Harris graduated from Towson High School. It is an easy drive from THS to the National Gallery of Art. Harris would first become famous in 1964 as the killer of his friend Sally before the serial killer who actually killed her was caught.

While the memory of his short-lived stint as prime suspect in a murder still fresh on everyone’s lips Harris plucked his facial hair, proclaimed his bisexuality, and began his long career as a drag queen. Harris would take the stage name of “Divine” from his friend and director John Waters. In the 1974 film “Female Trouble” Divine played both Dawn Davenport and Earl Peterson who, in a possible nod to Divine’s bisexuality, act out a sex scene with each other.

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