A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Outrages

monA couple years ago in the tiny village of Borja, Spain, an elderly woman named Cecilia Giménez tried her hand at restoring a flaking, century-old fresco of Jesus Christ. She failed. Obviously underqualified to do a paint-by-numbers donkey, Giménez turned the delicate fresco of the thorn-crowned Christ into what became known as “Monkey Jesus.”

Shocked parishioners of the Santuario de la Misericordia church where the fresco resides initially assumed they were the victims of vandalism. Only later did Giménez come forward and take credit for the simian transformation. And in a strange twist, she became a quasi-celebrity. She has sold her artwork on eBay and in a gallery show in Borja, and “Monkey Jesus” merchandise is available online.

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Furthermore, the church started charging people to leer at the defaced mural, raising close to $100,000 from more than 75,000 voyeurs.

Now, in a somewhat related story, a stolen Matisse painting titled “Odalisque in Red Pants” was recently returned to the Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas where thieves had replaced the original with a fake. Astoundingly, no one noticed for at least two years that a fake has been placed on the hook where “Odalisque” had once hung. After the chicanery was discovered, art experts huffed that the fake was poorly executed – a claim that seems overplayed given the length of time the fake occupied prime wall space unchallenged.

Decide for yourself. Which of these is the real Matisse?
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WWI a Hundred Years Later

keegan_first_l For all intents and purposes, the Second World War was a continuation of the First World War, yet while the events that contributed to the start of WWII are well-known, those leading to the outbreak of WWI are less so – at least in America. No country invaded another, nor bombed a military outpost in a surprise attack. In fact, much of the inter-governmental chatter prior to military engagement was devoted to diplomatic activity designed to avoid, or at least limit confrontation. In retrospect, WWI seemed to happen in spite of the combatants rather than because of them. As John Keegan writes in his comprehensive “The First World War,” “A train of events that led to its outbreak might have been broken at any point during the five weeks of crisis that preceded the first clash of arms, had prudence or common goodwill found a voice.”

Keegan’s book is an essential for anyone who doesn’t know what Gavrilo Princip did, or what happened at Verdun, or were unaware that Japan was an ally of Great Britain and France before turning the other way in WWII. I suspect that because WWI started a century ago and that the U.S. fought in it for just 14 months, Americans know little about it. If you feel you might be one such person, Keegan’s book comes highly recommended.

RIP Archie

I used to read Archie comics as a pre-teen, and honestly don’t know whether I enjoyed it or not. I can’t remember any plot in detail, although I recall Reggie was a prick, Jughead was a needle-nosed idiot, Mr. Weatherbee was a blob, Mrs. Grundy was the stereotypical spinster, and Archie was the all-American boy with the curious tic-tac-toe board on the side of his head.

My vaguest recollections are that I preferred Betty to Veronica, even though both were drawn such that they could have been identical twins. It was Betty’s desire to please Archie that trumped Veronica’s wealth and sophistication. Later on, my allegiance to Betty waned, and today I would say I’m more of a Veronica-man. Her blue-black hair, sexy smile and outsized portfolio are hard to resist. In any event, I sincerely hoped Archie would persuade the two lovelies into a ménage a trois, as I’m quite sure Reggie had already accomplished.

Now we may never know, as Archie was recently killed taking a bullet meant for a politician. The politician, Kevin Keller, is a gay gun-control advocate who is targeted for assassination by a man harboring hard-felt disagreements with Keller’s positions. Archie steps in to break up the shot, and takes lead to the chest – a mortal wound. According to Archie Comics publisher Jon Goldwater, “”Archie Andrews is a very iconic all-American hero. To have him literally take a bullet for the ideas of diversity and equality in a comic book is a very powerful statement.”

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You may think that killing off the lead character would end the series, but the publishers intend to continue the saga of the Riverdale denizens, telling the story of how they manage with the loss of the red-haired hero.

RIP Archie, even though you are a drawing.

And the answer is:

The real Matisse is on the left.

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