3rd October 2007
I had not been working on my Guide to Erotic Art in London’s National Gallery for long when I came to realise that a shorthand expression was needed for the times when I found myself commenting on facts, the acceptance of which at face value might be an act of faith for many people, but to me seemed questionable. Not wishing to offend anyone I came up with the idea of referring any differences of opinion that might potentially arise to Her Majesty’s Royal Marines.
By tradition the Royal Marines are seaborn soldiers who combine qualities of loyalty, courage and tenacity of purpose of the highest order with an innate capacity to believe whatever they are told. It may be thought that whenever a reference to the Royal Marines is made in anything written by me I am indicating that I personally think that there is something fishy afoot. Such an assumption would be incorrect. When a set of facts are referred to the Royal Marines, or are stated to have somehow come to their notice, what is indicated is a possible difference of opinion upon which readers should make their own judgment as to where the truth lies.
Those of you who have been following the Phil Spector trial will be interested to know that, when Kim cast doubt in her blog as to whether Linda Kenney Baden’s absence from the courtroom was due to illness, as the judge and jury were led to believe, or whether it was to avoid the embarrassment of her sitting at the defence table while her husband was giving evidence, a General Order was put out by the Commandant General, Royal Marines, forbidding all ranks to log on to Kim’s DarwinException blog.
And when there was a chorus of disbelief among posters to the CourtTV message boards following Dr Baden’s testimony that, in an “aha moment”, he figured out that the clumsy criminalists had flung the victim’s body into the back of a truck and broken its neck thereby severing the nerve supply to the brain (intact at the time of death), the Royal Marines marched, colours flying and brass band playing, through the City of Portsmouth holding aloft banners with pictures of Dr and Mrs Baden. The rear of the parade was brought up by their mascot, a goat that had been renamed “Eureka”, sitting on its hind legs in a wheeled bath-tub. This moving display of support for the Badens was not reported in the American media.
Because so many of the pictures in the National Gallery’s collection have a religious subject it has, unfortunately, been necessary to make frequent referrals of stories from the Bible to the Royal Marines. It is pleasing to report that their belief in The Word remains unshaken. In what was, I admit, a wicked moment I brought to their attention the late Dr Ernest Martin’s theory that Gothic architecture was Satan inspired and that entering a Gothic church was indistinguishable from penetrating a woman through her vulva. (Article here.) The only response made by the Corps was an order that, on church parades, only officers above the rank of Major would be permitted to go through the front door of a church without wearing a condom and that, on no account, were any personnel to enter through the rear entrance.
Picture Captions: On the left hand side: The National Gallery’s three Judiths; Top: Johann Liss (about 1595); Lower Left: van der Neer (about 1678); Lower Right: Master of the Mansi Magdalen (about 1525). On the right hand side: The Tovey/Samuelson re-interpretation of Judith in the Tent of Holofernes by Liss - with strong associations with the famous Athena tennis Girl poster.
Looking through the various drafts of my as-yet-unpublished Guide to Erotic Art in London’s National Gallery I see that among the stories that I asked the Royal Marines to look at was Judith in the Tent of Holofernes. The National Gallery has three works in which the lady is depicted and - although some might say I stretch the meaning of “erotic” at times – no one would dispute that Judith’s meeting with Holofernes has all the necessary elements to get it on CourtTV.
I have written so much stuff about so many of the paintings in the National Gallery, and I have such a bad memory, that when I do a search (in this instance the key words were “marines” and “judith”) what comes up reads as if it had been written by someone else. Sometimes the “someone else” looks to have been a better writer than me. Sometimes he looks a bit crappy. Everyone has off days Read the rest of this entry »