Posts Tagged ‘Apelles’

The Art Critic

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

The heron was so recently dead that nothing had disturbed its carcass. Finding a comparatively dry and shady spot on the bank, I pulled out my sketchpad and mechanical pencil. Unfortunately, I only had a few moments alone before I heard him scrambling through the underbrush. Uninvited, he sat close beside me and gaily splashed his hooves in the creek.

“Howdy do!” he grinned.

“Hmm,” I muttered in reply.

He pulled some poison ivy from a nearby tree and nudged me. “Some?” he asked.

“No, I’m pretty sure it would kill me.”

“Oh, that’s right! Your kind is allergic to it. Boy oh boy, you don’t know what you’re missing!” He crammed a handful in his mouth, loudly chewing and smacking while still splashing his hooves. I tried pretending he wasn’t there.

Finishing his snack, he cheerfully asked, “Hey, whatcha doin’? You drawing?”

I nodded.

He bent over to look at my sketch, blocking my view. “Hey! You trying to draw that dead heron there?”

I sighed and nodded.

“Well,” he said happily, “you sure ain’t no Audubon. I gotta say your drawing is awful, absolutely awful.”

“Thanks.”

“Birds sure aren’t your forte. Hey! I got an idea! Why don’t you try drawing me?”

“Can’t. I only draw fantasy.”

“That so? That’s too bad. You know, I like posing for artists.”

“Hmm.”

“I used to pose for Apelles.”

“You knew Apelles?” I asked, instantly regretting opening my mouth.

“Oh, sure, knew all the old Greeks. Then much later I moved to Italy and knew ‘em all there, too: Piero di Cosimo, Andrea del Sarto, you name ‘em.”

“Caravaggio?”

“Almost. He killed a man and had to skip town the day before I was supposed to pose for him.”

That gave me an idea. I looked around for a big stick or a heavy rock. Sadly, there were none.

“So,” I mumbled, mildly curious in spite of myself, “how did you wind up all the way over here?”

“Oh, you know the story. Wife had relatives here so here is where she wanted to be and I didn’t feel like butting heads over it with the old nanny goat.” He paused to chuckle at his own joke. He was the only one who did. “So here is where we settled. Then the kids came along… Kids! Hey! Get it!” He nudged me. I did not deign to respond. “Yep, kids and then grandkids and then, you know, you just lose your energy and wanderlust as you get older. You find yourself stuck. But I ain’t complaining, mind you. Once folks like Rubens died out and people like Courbet came along my modeling career was pretty much kaput anyway. And back in the day when there were factories here a good, honest satyr could make a pretty good, honest living. Still, you know, there are times a body can’t help missing the old days.”

“I know,” I whispered.

From a distance arose the chattering of an approaching gaggle of joggers, their noise frightening away all the wildlife. He dove into the underbrush. “Catch you satyr!” he laughed.

“Not if I’m lucky,” I muttered as I watched his shadow merge with the foliage. I then returned to the sketch and studied it. As you can see for yourself, the old satyr was right; it doesn’t look much like a heron. I blame him for that since he distracted me.