Vladimir Putin was recently filmed in Beijing playing the piano as he awaited a meeting with President Xi Jinping. Much of the media saw the incident as evidence of a “musical talent” and some “softer side” to his hardnosed ways. But I ask all those journalists who reported that Putin plays the piano: have you gone mad? He doesn’t do that unless you count tinkling a few ivories with two fingers in the middle register. Children trying to sound out "Chopsticks" use more keys. Clearly, this pathetic performance was a public relations stunt with a musical instrument at the ready - complete with its lid up, concert-style - and a camera in place, courtesy of Russian state television.

Does talent trump derangement?

But even if Putin, the dictator, were a virtuoso on the keyboard, it wouldn’t make him softer. A split-personality is a dissociative identity disorder with each disparate parts living unaware of the other and it's far from uncommon. A new Netflix psychosexual drama titled “Gypsy” tells the story of a wife and mother and respected psychologist, who helps troubled people but who leads a double life by indulging in secret relationships with her patients’ loved ones.

Does art-making soften an evil-doer’s heart?

History records the dark side of several well-known people. Some famous painters, for example, have committed crimes or otherwise behaved in reprehensible ways that contradict the high-mindedness of their work.

Caravaggio who rendered devoutly religious works had an uninterrupted record of crimes, including murder. Alonso Cano, known as the Spanish Michelangelo, and an ordained priest whose figure art is absolutely saccharine, was often thrown out of cities he worked in, and on one occasion for killing his wife. None of the talents here served to soften the will to cause pain.

Frailties hold firm before fame and fortune

Celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright not only abandoned his first wife and six children to run off with the wife of a client, but his second wife also accused him in a divorce proceeding of wife-beating. Then there’s Napoleon, Emperor of France, who was bent on ruling all of Europe, forced to abdicate for preventing peace among nations.

Yet it was the spoils of all the wars he waged that filled the Louvre with its famed art collection. Again, as in the case of Putin, et al, none of the positive traits of these men softened their will to mow down those in their way.

The big disconnect

Granted, we all have different sides to our personalities, but they’re usually integrated and consciously lived. The two sides of Putin’s way of being – one who murders those who disagree with him – and one who tenderly taps out the melody lines of songs from his childhood like some dutiful little boy – compares to the villainous differential that Naomi Watts enacts in “Gypsy.” Scary!