In Italy during the Second World War, as the allied invasion works its way northward from Anzio, art connoisseur Nicholas Kluge writes a novella in Pushkin Sonnets, Ocular Proof, to while away the empty hours. Ocular Proof tells the story, in twenty chapters structured by the phases of the alchemical process, of how two works of art came into being: a portrait of Maddalena de Medici which served as an early prototype for the Mona Lisa, and da Vinci's creation of "the first photograph," the Shroud of Turin.
The coded references within Ocular Proof's Renaissance narrative reveal a plan involving MI6 and the Catholic Church to provide the Nazis with fake masterpieces as they prepared to loot the Vatican of some of its greatest art treasures.
Ocular Proof reveals the secrets Nicholas Kluge carried with him to the grave of a life of divided loyalties and lost ideals, and how his time with MI6 altered the course of the war and the course of his life. The novella's meditations on the nature of art and the creation of 'the authentic image' eerily prefigures the obsessions of an era when the term Machiavellian had never seemed more contemporary.
John Delacourt is a Toronto writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications in Canada. He is also the author and co-creator of several plays produced in Toronto. He studied at the Humber School for Writers after graduating with an MA in English Literature from the University of Toronto.