The Louvre will not hang Salvator Mundi in its big Leonardo show because of doubts about its authenticity: “Salvator Mundi, the world’s most expensive painting, will not be part of this year’s big Leonardo da Vinci show in Paris because curators at the Louvre do not believe it can be attributed solely to the artist, it has been claimed.”
As far as Germaine Greer is concerned, the Louvre should pass on all of Leonardo’s work: At the Hay festival in Wales, she said “she was repeatedly ‘disappointed in Leonardo as an artist’. On the Mona Lisa, she said the painting was typical of Venetian art in the period. ‘The most important thing to me about this bloody picture is that this woman looks as if she is already dead,’ said Greer. ‘As for the famous smile, this is what I call the Leonardo smirk. You find it everywhere.’”
Uh-oh: “Disrupted sleep patterns can lead to ‘deviant behaviour’, research suggests.”
Grade inflation is ruining American higher education, and it needs to stop, John V. C. Nye argues in Reason.
Are we witnessing the end of Christianity in the West? “The West is falling. Quietly, politically, without a violent upheaval, the Islamists are taking control of France. A dissolute literature professor named François retires to a monastery near Poitiers, the place where Charles Martel stopped the last advance of Islam in 732. A man at once mesmerized and dejected by the sensual pleasures of cultural decadence, François is seeking to reconnect with the Christian religion that formed the great French culture of the past. But faith in that religion will not come to him. ‘I no longer knew the meaning of my presence in this place,’ he says of the monastery. ‘For a moment, it would appear to me, weakly, then just as soon it would disappear.’ He leaves the monastery, ready to convert to Islam and submit to the new order. ‘I’d be given another chance; and it would be the chance at a second life, with very little connection to the old one,’ he says. ‘I would have nothing to mourn.’ This sequence from Michel Houellebecq’s controversial 2015 novel Submission is a near-perfect fictional representation of a phenomenon I’ve noticed in many intellectuals since the latest rise of radical Islam. These thinkers see the great days of the West ending, while a violent, intolerant form of Islam infests its ruins. They believe that Europe has lost the will to live and that the loss is linked to a loss of faith in Christianity. But while they yearn to see the West revived—and while they may even support Christianity as a social good or a metaphorical vehicle for truth—they cannot themselves believe.”
Joseph Bottum on “the master of middlebrow”: “Herman Wouk was a good writer. He could spin a compelling tale, and he could embroider some serious ideas onto that tale. His prose was clean, and his characters recognizable. But he wasn’t Proust. Or Tolstoy. Or Saul Bellow. He was just good, producing—with The Caine Mutiny (1951), for example—solid American middlebrow work much better than, say, Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955).”
Essay of the Day:
In Spectator, Justin Cartwright revisits the life and work of editor and writer William Maxwell:
“A curious thing: the New York literary world is smaller than the London literary world. It also has a strange feeling of being more old-fashioned. I was edited there by the legendary Joe Fox. I don’t think he liked me, but we would have dinner at a hotel restaurant, the last place where he could smoke in New York, and talk about great writers, including William Maxwell. Joe Fox died at his desk in Random House behind a huge pile of copies of the New York Times, cigarette on his lips.
“William Maxwell himself was one of this relatively small but influential group of New York literary figures. Because of his very long life and his great influence as literary editor of the New Yorker, he knew almost every writer who passed through the city. When Maxwell died two years ago, at the age of 91, John Updike wrote in his tribute to him in the New Yorker: ‘He accepted with his customary grace and humor his own contrary fate of living on and on . . . He was himself so large- minded, so selflessly in love with the best the world could offer, that he enlarged and relaxed those who knew him. His was a rare, brave spirit, early annealed in terrible loss. He had a gift for affection, and another – or was it the same gift? – for paying attention. With both he graced this magazine.’
“Maxwell’s great loss, to which Updike refers, was the death of his mother when he was a boy out in Illinois during the ’flu epidemic of 1918 (in which my own grandmother died, leaving my mother bereft). This loss, and the consequent vivid, nostalgic memory of an idyllic childhood destroyed, was the subject of his own literary endeavors and provided him with three-quarters of his literary material. To read Maxwell now is to be taken back into a time and place lost forever. It is an extraordinary and wonderfully surprising experience: here is an American provincial world presented in miniature and in exquisite detail, as though the death of his mother froze Maxwell’s sensory memory in one place and in one time.”
Photo: Chapelle Sainte Marguerite
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