Did Lucia Borgonzoni copy information about Leonardo da Vinci from Wikipedia?

News is circulating that Lucia Borgonzoni allegedly "copied" from Wikipedia some information about Leonardo da Vinci for a video pill posted on her Facebook page.

Circulating on social media (and also in some major national newspapers) is the news that the undersecretary for culture, Lucia Borgonzoni, has “copied from Wikipedia” some information about Leonardo da Vinci that the Leghist senator spread in a one-minute video-pillola of hers on the great Tuscan artist. The video is part of a series entitled “First the Italian,” which, in Borgonzoni’s intentions, is aimed at spreading trivia about “a great Italian” in each installment. Curious that he does so with a clock behind him filled with English writing, but the setting is a negligible detail.

Borgonzoni, in the video, which lasts exactly 58 seconds, makes time to convey two pieces of information: first, that Leonardo even in his old age wore his hair shoulder-length and his tunic short at the knees, and second, that he invented the “vincian knot.” “There is a peculiarity that few people know about,” says the undersecretary. “He cared so much about fashion. Just think that in his old age Leonardo continued to wear his hair shoulder-length, which was completely atypical at that time where almost everyone cut it short and wore a robe short to the knees, which was definitely not usual in people of a certain age. You can see this very distinctive look of his in a statue of him that is in the Uffizi loggia. Another little bit of trivia before I say goodbye: he also invented the vincian knot, which are particular knots of embroidery that you find inside his paintings.”

What Borgonzoni is being blamed for is copying information from the Wikipedia page “Personal Life of Leonardo da Vinci,” where one can read roughly the same things under the “Physical Characteristics” section: “The descriptions and portraits combine to create an image of a tall, athletic and very handsome man; the length of his skeleton measured 173 cm., which was more than acceptable by the standards of the time. Portraits indicate that, ahead of his years, he kept his hair long and flowing falling to his shoulders, this at a time when most men kept it cut short; still, while most of his contemporaries shaved or kept their beards short anyway, here instead Leonardo’s beard reached his chest. His clothing is repeatedly described as being unusual, original in its choice of bright colors, and at a time when mature men wore long, severe robes Leonardo’s preferred attire consisted of a short, flexible tunic, of the kind worn by young men. Such an image was later recreated in the statue that stands today outside the Uffizi Gallery.”

Indeed, Wikipedia seems to be the source from which Borgonzoni drew the information, which is presented in the same order and with the same arguments: shoulder-length hair versus the fashion of the time that wanted it short, the habit of dressing in short tunics at a mature age versus the custom of mature people, the reference to the nineteenth-century statue in the Uffizi loggia. Borgonzoni, however, expresses the concepts in her own words, and adds a reference to the vincian knot not found on the same Wikipedia page, so she cannot be said to have literally “copied” the content.

After that, she can certainly be blamed for choosing Wikipedia as her source (although it is not clear why: on Leonardo da Vinci, the online encyclopedia is very reliable), someone can reproach her for the brevity of the intervention (still better than when she said that “Leonardo is not Leonardò” as a reason for refusing to France the loans of Leonardo’s works on the five-hundredth anniversary of his death), but one must also keep in mind the fact that typically Borgonzoni is addressing not an audience of specialists or enthusiasts, but her electorate. That instead of the usual posts about Salvini or against immigrants (which make numbers 7/8 times higher than the video about Leonardo), they found themselves, at least for once, with a video that talks about topics to which, given the tenor of the other interventions on the page, they are evidently not accustomed. Will it have worked? For now in the comments it is a riot of thanks and “Italians first.” But let’s give the benefit of the doubt: there must be some frequenter of the page who will be prompted to visit the Hall of Axes or the Last Supper after learning that Leonardo wore his hair long. And just in case, even a video with information from Wikipedia will still have produced a result.

Did Lucia Borgonzoni copy information about Leonardo da Vinci from Wikipedia?
Did Lucia Borgonzoni copy information about Leonardo da Vinci from Wikipedia?

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