ART, Musings

Da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’

Yesterday saw a world record break for any work of art sold at auction. The salvator mundi was sold for $450.3m, including auction house premium, by an anonymous buyer in the auction at Christie’s in New York. “Salvator Mundi” (“Savior of the World”) is one of fewer than 20 known paintings by da Vinci, and the only one in private hands.

Though I can hold a good conversation about beauty and art, I know little about its sale and purchase. So I reserve my comments about the heartburn that just the mention of the purchase sum gives to me.

But there’s been and still are tons of hype about it. Lots of hype about the painting, the painter, and especially about the 500 years of history behind it. The salvator mundi has gone on display in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and New York. Thousands of people have gone to see it before its final sale.

If 500 years’ worth of history can cause this, how much more should 2000 years’ worth of history do? I, who believe not just in the painter, nor in the authenticity of the painting BUT in the figure – CHRIST painted by Da Vinci, what is my reaction? Does my belief lead me to act thus? How does it affect my day to day life?

Add to this, the lot of talk and analysis to ascertain if it’s an authentic Leonardo’s.

Salvator Mundi Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator mundi

Modestini, who restored the salvator mundi commented that ‘I shudder to think what might have been used’ in the grotesque repaintings of the painting. The varnish was “sticky and uneven” with crude touch-ups, quite possibly the work of “the owner or a local amateur”.

She didn’t stop at shudder though. Modestini then professionally restored the Salvator Mundi. Despite some damage to the face, the flesh tones fortunately retain their layer structure. She stabilised the picture, removed most of the later overpaint and fillings, and made cosmetic changes to bring it back closer to Leonardo’s original.

O salvator mundi, this is one more wakeup call from you. Your silent and gentle honk has pierced my indifference. I’ve hidden your face behind countless ‘what would they say? Why should I bother them by revealing You?’. I’ve repainted your face by my many small inconsistencies, so much so that recognition of You is almost impossible.

This is my conclusion, my resolution;

I’ll restore your image that I carry within me, o salvator mundi. I’ll do a more meticulous work than what Modestini has done to your painting. So that the others can see and appreciate the real You. And I’ll take you beyond Hong Kong and New York. I’ll take you everywhere so that everyone can see you and be conquered by your charm and your grace. And I won’t look too far – I’ll start with my friends and family.



November reflections

Sunset @ Budapest

In the evening of our life,
we’ll clearly see the value of all that we did
for love of God and of neighbour.
Yes, even those things
that apparently didn’t work out.

Welcome to November

Little things, Musings


My first contact with the sound of music was thanks to Mrs. Togonu – Bickersteth, the vice principal of my Federal College. That day, without previous warning – at least to the students – the academic staff had gone on strike and we were bereft of classes. To help us take advantage of that free time, the vice principal invited all the girls to the school hall to see the musical. I had to leave with other day students half way through. This was in 2001.

Over the years, I have seen clips of it on TV, listened to my friends sing some of the songs, sang doe, a deer, a female deer in music class at school; but I never got to see the movie from start to finish. Until recently. With the birthday of Amanda.

Amanda, my friend from Hong Kong, wanted a big birthday bash. So we went all out for it. A good homemade buffet, thanks to the Administration of my residence, a make-shift bar with a proper bar tender to boot and a movie! From the dining room, we went, cock – tails in hand, to the sitting room, to see the sound of music. At last! I’ve always considered it a beautiful story and a great movie; sitting through it now didn’t diminish my high regard for it.

At the Bar

Yesterday, I put down the book behind the musical. It’s called the story of the Von Trapp family singers. The musical is only a taste of the icing. Maria von Trapp, the novice turned wife and mother, recounts in a very wonderful way the family’s trip cum flight to the USA and the fight they had to put up to live a dignified life in their new country. It’s an extraordinary book that tells the ordinary life of a family of 12. The episodes that shine out are few in number. But neither are there any dull moment.

Maria writes of the hard work, their joys, their rehearsals, their different singing tours, their faith in God, etc. Along the way, there are many who cross their path and many of these stay on as part of the family. There are the various friends who welcome this new group of immigrants – yes because Baron Von Trapp was just one more Austrian immigrant – and help them with their first tottering steps in making a life for themselves in the States.

Maria also demonstrate her understanding and respect for those who saw things differently from the Von Trapp family. I was very impressed by the way she writes about the Austrian Relief Fund; an NGO started by the family in 1947 to send aid back to their ailing nation at the end of World War II. They publicized it during each of their concerts asking their listeners for donations to send to the needy in Austria. Maria mentions that many of the responses were positive; the participants were usually much moved and gave a lot the next day. But there were also negative and even violent responses. In some cities, some in the audience complained that they had come to listen to good music and to relax and not to be burdened with the world’s problem. A very legitimate opinion. But read what Maria writes next

With time, she says, we got to respect those views too and to ask the opinions of the organizers before the concert if we could publicize our Austrian Relief fund and if we could expect a positive response from the audience. From then on, we received only positive feedback from our audience.

They didn’t shy away from their NGO in order to keep up their singing fame. Nor are there any negative comments in return for each of the negative responses they received. They tackle the issue the right way – with dialogue and with a lot of charity and respect for those at the other end of the table. I’m definitely picking up one or two tips from this.

Now the Von Trapp family still have to ‘contend’ with the millions of fans of the sound of music, some of whom visit their Lodge in Vermont, who firmly believe that the reality was exactly as the musical; which it is not, I assure you. The directors of the Sound of Music knew their stuff. They have given us a classic and if I’m writing this blog post after reading the true story, it is thanks to them. Without the musical, the book wouldn’t have called out to me when I first saw it. But life is richer than a two – hour long musical which gives us ‘the end’ after the fifth chapter of a more than twenty – chaptered book.

Have you seen the musical and didn’t even know that the book existed? Well then, it’s not too late. You’ll truly get good value for your money. For those in my shoes who have read the book and seen the musical, I’ll like to hear from you! Am I alone or do you see things the same way?

Little things

Hangout with dodo

Assina and Java

Hangout – to spend time doing nothing in particular.

I challenge that definition. My hangout was very particular. I spent it dodolising! Assina had invited me to an ‘African’ lunch. Normally, I’m ‘allergic’ to the word African. It brings all the ‘horrors’ of the generalization to my head. Like; I’m going to Africa or There’s an African on the queue, Anyway, I have decided that anyone who still generalizes like this is not updated and it’s up to me to add to their cultural knowledge.


For eg. – Nigeria vs Italy.

So it’s usually a smile and a

‘Oh really. Which country in Africa?

‘An African? Does she speak English or French? At least if she speak French, that leaves us with 31 out of the 54 countries in Africa.

Back to our lunch o jare. Assina is Congolese and she was going to introduce me to two Congolese friends. So when she said African and added lunch to it, I packed up my fight and left it at home. Let’s eat lunch in peace o. Fight will come later.

Assina Kahamba, Congo JAVA

That’s how I arrived there to find my friend bustling around in the kitchen – heating up the chicken, frying the dodo, making some salad. Oya now, where are the two friends? Friend ni, friends ko. I was transported to the biblical parable where the King’s guests turned down the invitation to the royal wedding for unreasonable reasons.

One friend had just woken up. Eh, we’re in summer and it’s a Saturday. Agreed! The other had forgotten the directions to Assina’s place. It’s alright. Two’s company and three is a crowd sometimes. So we consoled ourselves and sat down to the plate of dodo made for four. And we gisted – about moving our respective countries forward, of Assina’s job in Congo as the Director of Formation in a school in Kinshasa, of the joy of living and of cooking, of eating healthy, of my sister Oge who’s expecting her third baby, of my summer plans, of everything! Did we have a swell time? You tell me!

Dedicated: to the two dear Congolese who couldn’t come. Ope o! Thanks for not showing up. See you some other time.


Little things, Pixpers

Ordinarily great? Yes!

The Church celebrates one of her greatest saints of the 20th century today. He’s St. Josemaria, patron saint of ordinary life. It’s my kind of life, it’s your kind of life too! God, Family, work, friends, parties, moments of solitude…  just name it.

Unfortunately it may, and sometimes it does include war, quarrels, being a refugee, moments of despair, moments when it feels that you just can’t go on, loneliness in the midst of crowds, etc. Even in those circumstances, You are not alone. There God waits for me, for you, to find Him, so that together, the burden can be borne.

St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei

St. Josemaria, Image in San Salvatore Lauro, Rome

St. Josemaria, pray for us so that, like you, we may learn to turn all the circumstances and events of our lives into opportunities to love God and to serve all souls.