#MISTAKE – Art needs mistakes to evolve

06.08.2018 | By Marco Mazzoni

I have always praised mistakes, when they don’t lead to dramatic consequences, because mistakes are what ignites the spark of new ideas or, more simply, leads to new solutions.

Milan, for example, owes one of its gastronomic symbols to a mistake: the panettone (pane di Toni) in fact, was originated in the period when Leonardo Da Vinci was in Milan.

During a meal, the cook at the service of Ludovico il Moro burned the cake and, to save the day, the kitchen scullery boy (who was called Toni) prepared, with the ingredients he had in the pantry, and successfully served, what is today the Christmas dessert par excellence in almost all of Italy.
Even art needs mistakes to evolve, to find unexpected solutions. Artists often have to regret what they have done in order to achieve a living work, made by a human being, that is, that has in itself the positive and negative aspects of the gesture.
Even artistic masterpieces that are culturally inestimable like Michelangelo’s Moses are the children of “repentance”.

Repentance, in the artistic world, indicates the reconsideration in progress that artists perform, to hide the previous version of which they are not satisfied with.

Today we have knowledge of the practical signs of an artist’s second thoughts thanks to X-rays, because changes, especially in painting, are almost always invisible to the naked eye.
In particular, Michelangelo was not satisfied with the first version of Moses and re-sculpted whole parts of it.
The knee and the head are the result of the rethinking of the artist and are what the eye of the observer immediately notices because they stand out from the rest for elegance and virtuosity. There are many examples of repentance in art, there are many attempts at redemption, many signs under the surface, before the advent of the digital world and before a work could be reworked indefinitely without leaving traces.
It is said that Caravaggio’s “Basket of Fruit”, conserved at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana di Milano, was born out of a mistake: legend has it that the first still life in history is actually a detail of a more complex work of greater dimensions, which the painter was not satisfied with.

The result was the cutting of the canvas, which saved only one particular detail, but which marked the beginning of what became a fundamental subject in the history of art in the following centuries.
It is not sure whether this story is a legend or reality, the fact remains that the fascination with mistakes makes everything more natural and less predictable.
Perhaps in the digital age the mistake loses its importance because repentance, even if present, is no longer evident.

This is because the relationship with matter is fading out slowly and perhaps this is a pity, because the mistake is basically a gesture that refers to something higher: the attempt of man to overcome an obstacle.