Paris had his Helen

Will you choose her? The Virgin Mother, Damien Hirst’s 35ft tall bronze sculpture in the courtyard of the Royal Art Academy for their annual summer exhibition.

At the National Gallery, a guide is introducing a 17th Century (?) painting to a group of 7 year-olds on a school excursion. It depicts the handsome youth Paris, seated under a tree with Hermes behind him and three naked goddesses before him – Athena or Minerva, the goddess of wisdom; Venus or Aphrodite, the goddess of love; and Juno, the goddess of wealth. He holds out an apple in offer. Who will he offer it to? And implicitly, what does he desire in return?

Guide: What about you all? Will you choose intelligence, knowledge; or love, the most beautiful woman in the world; or money, fortune?

Some of the kids raised their hands, eager to give their answer. Others seemed deep in thought, or perhaps they are just bored.

Guide: Tell me, how many of you want to be intelligent? You think intelligence is good?

3 maybe 4 hands shot up, both boys and girls.

Guide: Ah, and how many of you want to marry the most beautiful woman or the most handsome man in the world?

6 or 7 kids raised their hands, giggling, shouting “me!”. Most were girls, save for a boy with ash-coloured hair who coyly smiled.

Guide: I see Matthew, you’re a smart boy. And finally, how many of you want to be rich, to have lots of money, cash –

Before he could finish, the rest of kids all raised their hands, even those who had, until now, not seemed to be engaged by the naked goddesses and the curly-haired youth.

Well, we all know what Paris chose in the end. But he’s clearly a dying breed, save for cheeky Matthew.

st james triumphs 2
There were several long-haired art students doing these detailed pencil drawings of paintings at the National Gallery. Thus inspired, I took out my notebook and pen too, for my version of this painting. Click on image for larger view in flickr

After 2 days of meetings and some art in hip happening London, I am sitting in a rather dreary Newcastle room where there is no aircon to counter the ringing silence (although half an hour ago, a woman’s moaning seemed to have defeated even the solid walls of this restored 19th century building), none of these 3 fleshy ladies would convince me to trade in an apple, unless one of them changes her name to air-conditioning! I did think while watching the kids that if I really had to choose, I would rather settle for Minerva. But then again, man’s wisdom cannot ease fear, insecurity and worry. It has not delivered peace and salvation – at least not of the sort that lasts. And it certainly has not conquered death. For all that, I chose Jesus than a woman with an owl and a shield.


ampulets said…
I would cut the apple into quarters, and all of us will get to eat the apple! :)-TOHA
ampulets said…
you are very greedy - to want the mind of minerva, the body of venus and the pockets of juno! and still keep 1/4 of the apple for yourself!
Anonymous said…
Clever! very clever!

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