1st October 2007
Where does the name come from?
The original Happy Porker was a three feet high display model in a butchers shop in the High Street of Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex on the South coast of England. It was a jolly looking pig wearing a blue and white striped apron standing on its hind legs holding a tray of pork sausages. The present illustration, assembled from Internet clips, is a fill-in until something better comes along.
How did the Happy Porker become a syndrome?
One of the definitions of “syndrome” is: “a distinctive pattern of behaviour”. In art, what is referred to is the saints’ habit, as depicted by the painters of the early Renaissance, of parading the instruments of torture and death inflicted upon them by their persecutors.
Why did the painters show the saints in this bizarre way?”
The paintings were devotional works designed to focus the attention of the illiterate masses on what would happen to them if they did not toe the Church’s line. The saints, they were taught, were all that stood between them and Hell and Eternal Damnation.
Why does it matter to us?
These early paintings are taking up too much room in the National Gallery and need to be weeded out with, may be, a few representative examples displayed in a side room. By modern day standards such works can not be said to constitute art. Rather they are fossils from a long ago era.
How do they come to feature in a Guide to Erotic Art in the National Gallery?
Such a guide has to cater for all kinds of sexual preference and there are those who choose a life style centred upon Sadism and Masochism.
Placing a representative selection of Happy Porker pictures in a side room would enable them to enjoy the pictures in quieter surroundings and meet others with similar tastes.
What paintings are we talking about?
Here are some examples:
Saint Peter Martyr was hit over the head with an axe, allegedly by Cathartist heretics. In his portraits the axe is still embedded in his head. The Cathartists were a splinter group and the Church in Rome set about winning their hearts and minds by hunting them down and burning them at the stake. Saint Peter Martyr was born into a Cathartist family but turned his back on the faith of his fathers and became Chief Inquisitor for Northern Italy. So, in the words of the six merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail, he had it coming.
Saint Agatha rejected the advances of a Roman Governor, was thrown into a brothel and had her breasts cut off. In Old Master Land she is never seen without her breasts on a plate, a pair of sheers, often as big as bolt cutters, nearby. As a rule she is holding the plate, Happy Porker fashion. She is the patron saint of Bell Founders. Not a lot of people know that.
Saint Lucy is another one who is forever seen with her detached body parts on a plate but in her case it is not her breasts but her eyes. The story goes that, having dedicated her life to Christ, she was resisting a forced marriage arranged by her mother. Her betrothed annoyed her by keeping on about her beautiful eyes and she tore them out. After that there nothing for her but the brothel but unlike Saint Agatha, who seems to have gone quietly, it took a team of oxen to drag her there.
Is there an opportunity here for the National Gallery?
The Gallery should consider having its own model of a Happy Porker made. If it decides not to reduce the numbers of such pictures on general display the porker could stand by the front entrance at the top of the steps leading from Trafalgar Square. If it adopts the side room suggestion the Happy Porker could stand at the doorway.
The Gallery could also follow the example of the nuns in Saint Agatha’s birthplace in Catania, Sicily. They sell breast shaped cakes made with white marzipan topped by a red cherry. These would sell better than hot cakes in the Gallery’s cafe.
About the paintings illustrated above.
Left: The Axeman Cometh: Saint Peter Martyr as seen by: 1. Fra Filippo Lippi (c1450); 2. Giorgio Schiavoni (c1456); 3. Defendente Ferrari (c1511) and 4. Carlo Crivelli (c1476). All these works are in the National Gallery, London.
Right: 1. Sebastiano dei Piombo’s socialite dressed as Saint Agatha with a pair of stylised breasts on a fruit dish. The flat chested look, appropriate to the case, appears to be intentional. Sebastiano was a fair boobsman, as can be seen from his 2. Death of Adonis in the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence. 3. Carlo Crivelli, again, with a Saint Lucy (c1476) with what, for the time, is a particularly well filled bodice - but no eyes. These works (other than the Adonis) also in the National Gallery, London
WHAT’S NEXT ON THIS BLOG
Monday 1 October: The opening frames in the erotic comic book story of the Count and the Widow will be put up on a special page linked to the Home page. The drawings and Italian vernacular text are explicit and only those aged 18 or over are authorised to access this feature. As the story begins, we find the Count and his lover relaxing after a heavy love making session.
Tuesday 2 October: Glossary Gloss No. 2 - The Royal Marines.
Wednesday 3 October: A return to the Phil Spector courtroom. Perhaps for the last time.
Thursday 4 October: Second instalment of the Count and the Widow in which the Count’s manservant – after serving breakfast to the Count’s lover, has been sent on a special mission to find a willing widow. He phones in a report.