I’m not quite sure why early “masters” are so-called. Some of their paintings are gruesomely bad; all wrong anatomically! But Piero della Francesca was a man before his time. Art historian Sir Kenneth Clark attributes to him “the greatest small painting in the world”. It’s the Flagellation of Christ, hanging in the National Gallery in the ducal palace in Urbino, Italy.

I went to see it yesterday. Here’s proof: I’m standing next to it!

Thing is, it’s in bad shape. The painting is oil and tempera on board and woodworm is chewing away at it, plus the board is now extremely buckled (see close up). It’s not going to last much longer.

Now to me it’s not the greatest painting ever but it’s the most intriguing by far. Who the hell are these guys? NOBODY KNOWS!

The figures of Christ and the guy with the whip are very inferior to the sumptuous threesome on the right. They could almost have been done by different painters. But who are the three? There’s endless speculation. One theory is the cute blonde boy in the middle was the tragically killed son of the Duke of Urbino. But who is the guy with the beard and the other chap in a gorgeous brocade jacket?

Even more weird is: who is the creep in the pink jacket and fancy-nancy hat watching the flogging? It could be Pontius Pilate but there aren’t many takers for that!

Some think the whole painting is really symbolic and depicts the thrashing of Christianity by the Turks, which was going on at the time. This was painted only 20 years after the fall of Constantinople (around 1455). The dude in pink is then supposed to be the current Pope, who was widely regarded as a useless wimp and would not mount a Christian counter-crusade.

I’m not here to re-cycle all the intrigue, but one last thing: the light for the left-hand portion is from the right, whereas the lighting for the three foreground figures is from the left! That adds some weight to my own idea, which is this could have been painted by two different artists. There’s a slight difference in perspective between the two halves, agreed? I’m very struck by how much more skilled the three figures on the right are. Maybe della Francesca just over-painted part of someone else’s work?

So What?

Aha, I hear you ask. What has this got to do with health options?

What about beauty? I once planned a book on the health benefits of beauty and esthetics. It still hasn’t been written.

But let me just say that the rest of art at this period was almost entirely Madonnas with funny boobies and gory crucifixions; not my idea of beautiful!

I suppose we could use it as a starting meditation about taking care of yourself long-term—you know: no woodworm and stuff! That’s always a good lesson.

The fact is we are all beautiful in a way when young. It’s hard to preserve it as we age. Women I feel very keenly for; they fight against aging with great anguish. There’s a cruel idea that older women lack beauty, whereas an older man looks “distinguished” (or so I’m told).

It misses the point entirely, which is that beauty is mostly an attitude of mind. I learned this very early on, at med school in fact. I remember particularly well one very beautiful women in her early thirties; full-figured; and, yes, gorgeous and sexy. She was in for a minor surgery.

What struck me so vividly was that the moment the anesthetic hit, her looks vanished, like a deflated balloon! I realized right then that beauty was about how a woman carried herself, what she thought of herself, and the expression she habitually wore, to face the world. Once she was unconscious, she couldn’t DO beauty!

Nutritional Bullets

It’s only a very small hop from there to understand that we create ourselves continuously. But we need good nutrition to do it. You can’t build a tower with crummy, crumbly bricks!

It’s said that we replace ourselves entirely every 90 days or so (statistically speaking, anyway). How is that going to happen if we don’t have good replacement materials? It can’t.

Here’s my point: No-one will cure anything to last, no matter how brilliant you are, or what healing paradigm, if the patient is in a negative nutritional balance.

So nutritional literacy is an important life skill. How is it then that almost nobody knows the simple bullet points of nutritional science, not even most health practitioners? Let’s review the key points:

  1. The so-called recommended daily allowance (RDA or Adequate Intake daily) are nonsense, the opinions of ignorant government scientists who have decided, without any scientific justification, that the amount that prevents you dying is all you need. No extra is required for better health.
  2. Everyone needs the same quantities. The truth: every individual is different and varies in nutritional requirements from time to time and different individuals have highly disparate nutritional requirements at any one time.
  3. Requirements never change. It is supposed that the amount you need never, ever changes through your life, no matter what you are experiencing. Again this is complete nonsense. When we are under acute stress, requirements of B vitamins and vitamin C go through the roof! Needs can go up by a hundred-fold when we are fighting a serious infection.
  4. What you swallow is what you get. Oh no it isn’t! There are many reasons why what goes into your mouth does not get into your bloodstream. Malabsorption for one.
  5. That any vitamin, mineral or nutrient can be studied singly, separate from the action of all other nutrients. Once again, this is scientific baloney. They all interact and this needs to be fully taken into account. Most studies don’t even attempt to look at the full picture.
  6. The vitamins and nutrients we know about and have labeled are the only ones that exist. More nonsense. There are potentially 10,000s of substances in the foods we eat which have a nutritional impact. That’s why eating an orange may have more benefit than just popping vitamin C capsules.
  7. That taking supplements only creates expensive urine. Smart Alec critics of nutrition love this one; they think it’s a huge joke. But the joke is on them. How much does it really cost to age rapidly and deteriorate in health? Like many Boomers, I never go to the doctor in sickness. But those who take less care of themselves may end up going bust with the cost of ongoing healthcare. How much cheaper is pee at 10 cents a litre?
  8. We can get all the nutrients we really need from our food. B*S*! It’s wrong for 2 reasons: a. Modern food doesn’t contain anything like the nutritional worth it once had. Modern AgriBusiness farming methods are about profits, not quality. b. Our real requirements have gone up dramatically in recent decades. We are now assaulted by chemical pollutants from every side. Our bodies need extra nutrients to keep us safe. One of the greatest detox molecules—glutathione—disappears at the rate of one molecule per toxin molecule. That’s a heavy sacrifice.
  9. The truth is the creation, repair and maintenance of healthy body tissues cannot be reduced to itemized lists of figures, like a shopping list.
  10. This kind of “nutrient accountancy” shows deplorable lack of understanding of the way Nature works and the meaning of holistic integration of health.

OK, off to Rome tomorrow, The Forum, The Colosseum and The Palatine Hill (not doing the Vatican this year)

To your excellent health and unrivalled artistic good taste!