Friday, December 4, 2009

The National Gallery has a cluttered little basement where they store the really crap paintings in their collection, like this one: "Scenes from Tebaldeo's Eclogues", by Andrea Previtali (attrib.; about 1505).

At first I assumed that they'd acquired it as part of a bequest that they couldn't turn down because it also contained some decent art... but no, they actually paid real money for it.

I couldn't find out much about Andrea Previtali on the Intertuba, so I am free to imagine him as a Mafia Don who turned his hand to painting as part of an elaborate scheme to convince the 16th-century Florentine Justice Department that he was mentally as well as artistically incompetent and in no state to stand trial on the various charges brought against him, mostly involving contraband incunabula and Lucrezia Borgia. Nor is there a great deal of information available¹ about Tebaldeo's Eclogues.² But I digress.

This sinister absence of information is evidence of a conspiracy on the face of it, or prima facie as we say when we're playing at scientists. It is a COVER-UP. Someone has been flushing the FACTS down the memory hole, and inevitably an inconvenient fact gets blocked in the S-bend, and then there's dirty data backing up on the floor, and the earliest the memory-hole plumber can come is on next Tuesday and even then he charges $80 just for the call-out charge and you sit around all day waiting for him even though he might not turn up at all.

Exhibit B is this other painting, lodged at the New Tate on the other side of the Thames. The formal similarities make it clear that this is the same painter -- even though this one is dated to 1928. So there are two possibilities. Perhaps "Previtali" has managed to extend his lifespan far beyond the natural bounds, through some arcane process that has been lost in the contemporary world where artificial barriers now exist -- in contrast to the free-and-easy Renaissance mentality -- between the fields of biology, alchemy, tinkering with elaborate clockwork mechanisms, and inflicting gratuitous pain upon cute animals in the name of vivisection. The other possibility is that an artist of the 20th century had access to time-travel technology, but that's just silly.

Either way, all the ingredients are in place for a blockbuster novel, and I am confidently waiting for a positive response from the publishers to the plot outline I sent them. I am not at liberty to divulge further details, except to say that Sir Francis Walsingham makes a cameo appearance, and that I visualise Mads Mikkelsen -- or if he's unavailable, Udo Kier -- in the role of multi-talented perceptual psychologist "Smut Clyde" who is drawn into the whole century-spanning conspiracy.

UPDATE: The public no longer enjoy access to the National Gallery basement. This could be for security reasons, or because too many crap artists were smuggling in their crap art and surreptitiously mounting it on the walls where the curators don't notice it among all the other crap art, but I prefer to see it as part of the ongoing SUPPRESSION OF EVIDENCE.

¹ For values of "available" that include "Free and easily Googled".

² "E-clogue" was of course the name of a shoe-shopping web company set up in Yorkshire during the buoyant, optimistic days of the bubble, only to disappear in an acrimonious wrangle of lawsuits and countersuits when the company went tits-up and its safe-deposit boxes were discovered to contain a lot of muck but NO BRASS AT ALL.


Jennifer said...

I am thinking the painting on the top was commissioned by a woman I once worked with (yes, she was capable of time travel!)who wanted a painting that "suggested" sheep... However... the ovine being too overt, she turned it down. Perhaps the painting on the bottom was more to her liking... the man looking as if he just ate some mutton stew... the ovine being in his face, but not in the viewers...

Hamish Mack said...

These are Renaissance agriculture posters. The first shows the consequences of not washing your sheep with the right shampoo. The veterinarian visits the shepherd and tells him "Their wool is buggered, mate, they are only good for dog tucker" The Shepherd stabs himself. The vet comes back to say, "Sorry we mixed up the results, that was Morrie Fredrickson's sheep that I told you about"
The second shows the importance of agreeing to meet the wool buyer and making sure that you are both going to be in the same place. Otherwise-chaos and empty rooms.

mikey said...

Of COURSE the 20th century artist could have had access to time-travel technology. I thought I had successfully pointed out on numerous occasions that once time travel technology is invented, even by another species in the 33d century, say, at that point there is and has always been time travel. Because, don't you see, it's TIME travel.

Hey, did I ever show you this amazing Hadrisaur pelvis I have?

Smut Clyde said...

In the 5th and 6th frames of Exhibit B, the dude with the newspaper reappears, but now he is holding a hadrosaur head mounted on a plaque. But of course they don't show you those frames at the art museum.

tigris said...

"Andrea Previtali" means "(a)Man of Before-Life," suggesting either a time-traveling Neanderthal or an eldritch blastocyst god.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Scenes from Tebaldeo's Eclogues

At least they had the good sense to remove "Scenes from Teabaggers' Eclogues". I still shudder at the recollection of that work.

However... the ovine being too overt, she turned it down.

This is what happens when you commission Mickey Kaus to paint for you.

at that point there is and has always been time travel. Because, don't you see, it's TIME travel.

I have been saying this for years- well, at least since 73 BCE. Uh, ignore that comment...

Smut Clyde said...

My other self in an alternative time-line travelled back to 1282 to change the course of history and all he brought me back was this stupid "Sicilian Vespa" t-shirt.

Smut Clyde said...

In fact I think the guy in the yellow hat is the journal editor. In the top-right panel he is explaining to the author that much as he would like to publish the manuscript, it will first be necessary for the author to rewrite it completely and address the concerns raised by the second reviewer.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

In fact I think the guy in the yellow hat is the journal editor.

What did he do to that poor, poor monkey?

Curious Curious George fact from teh Wiki:

The series was written and drawn by the team of Hans Augusto Rey and Margret Rey. According to Hans A. Rey's obituary in Sky & Telescope, the couple fled Paris in June 1940 with the Curious George manuscript in their luggage.

Who knew that Curious George fled Paris before the Nazi onslaught? *

* What is the "Godwin" status of this comment?

Mendacious D said...

Previtali is obviously HG Wells' Time Traveler. That much is evident from the subjects' absence in three frames of Exhibit B.

Interestingly, Previtali died in 1528, obviously the victim of a registry error.


The world's first internet-controlled tuba?

Mendacious D said...

the ovine being too overt

Well played, J, well played.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Previtali is obviously HG Wells' Time Traveler.

I dunno, my vote is for Count of St. Germain, but my brain has been addled by Eco.

Smut Clyde said...

eldritch blastocyst god

This was the title of Ronald Laing's most out-there paper in the British Journal of Psychotherapy in 1975. Either that, or a Weird Tales story from 1934. Or both.

Mentis Fugit said...

The second set needs a Gilliam-style foot in the second frame.

Smut Clyde said...

You mean this foot?
It appears that Terry Gilliam had access to time-travel technology.