Wednesday, November 22, 2006


On the way to the hospital on Sunday, I saw an ad for an exhibit at the MoMA. The featured painting – the focus of the exhibit – was Manet’s Execution of Maximilian.
All I could think of was the posture of the executioners (why not “executors”?).

Scene, the MoMA galleries, in front of Manet’s painting “The Execution of Maximilian.”

Museum Guide: Napoleon III blahblah Mexico blahblah “Mission Accomplished” blahblah Habsburg blah Austrian blah Maximilian crowned in France blahblah sent to Mexico blahblah insurgents blah Benito Juarez blahblah Maximilian blah abandoned by France blahblah execution blahblah firing squad. And the onlookers on the wall resemble the cherubim in the painting of –
Rube: Excuse me. Ma’am? Ma’am?
MG: Yes?
R: Why didn’t those six guys wait for their buddy to finish loading his gun?
MG: I’m glad you asked that. You see, in a sense he is the man of the future, beyond the smoke of time which you see between the shooters and the victims, and he is contemplating the violent act as the result of colonial –
R: Is that why his right hand is so big?
MG: Pardon?
R: Look. His right hand is too big. Is he supposed to be greedy or something?
MG: His hand isn’t too –
R: And why didn’t Mr. Mannay finish the sombrero guy’s face?
MG: Oh, another good question. You’re very observant sir.
R: Thank you kindly, ma’am.
MG: The face is obscured in reference to religious paintings. And you may notice that the sombrero resembles a halo.
R: You’re kidding.
MG: No, sir, I’m not.
R: That ain’t no halo.
MG: I beg your pardon?
R: Have you ever seen a halo?
MG: Well, no, not per se, but I’ve seen paintings of halos.
R: So have I and they don’t look nothin’ like my great-aunt Daphne when she visited upon us two summers ago in Tulsa at out annual church picnic. This genlmn’s without any facial features to speak of is wearin’ a sombrero.
MG: Let’s say that’s a matter of interpretation.
R: No, ma’am. I’d rather not. And why, if that’s supposed to be a halo, isn’t he even shot at? Seems to me all six shooters is all aimin’ at the feller on the left.
MG: Uh-
R: And while we’re at it, I don’t think Mr. Mannay ever shot no rifle.
MG: Why do you say that?
R: Well, I don’t know about religious pictures, ma’am, aside from what’s in my kid’s Sunday school book. And this don’t look like none of those pictures.
MG: Heh, heh. No. Heh. I should assume it doesn’t.
R: But I know about rifles, ma’am, and them rifles used to smoke out of two ends, the one with the flint as well as the business end. And them sumbitches shore do kick, if you know what I mean, and them six fellers is just standin’ there, laadeedaa, like they’s in a choir just humin’ a tune and boppin’ their heads. And…
MG: Yes?
R: And you said they was in Mexico, right?
MG: Yes.
R: Well, it looks like the shooters is wearin’ French uniforms, not no Mexican ones. The only one with the Mexican hat is the Austrian feller.
MG: Yes.
R: It looks to me like Mr. Mannay is sayin’ that the French done executed their own man in Mexico and that nobody felt nothin’ about it and that he wasn’t even a real person to them, just some sort of a holy symbol and that Mexican or French guns smoke funny and that not everyone was even doing the same thing together. … I don’t think Mr. Mannay was that much of a painter anyhow.
MG: Let’s say that’s up to interpretation, too.
R: Yeah? Let me ax you this: who bought the painting?
MG: Uh –
R: I like the lonely barmaid better.

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