Monthly Archives: April 2006

A Foetus of Substance

Originally posted on Life on the Outside, 3 April 2006.

Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I

So, we finally got to see that Dürer exhibition we were on the way to at the outbreak of the Ketones Incident. This time, your mother came along too. So did you, in fact, but I’m not sure you had a very good view.

It was a little disappointing, I’m afraid. What I had been hoping to see were some of Dürer’s prodigiously detailed watercolour studies; his celebrated hare, for instance.

All they had, though, were his engravings. Don’t get me wrong, the engravings are fascinating in their own right. They’re exquisitely detailed and the quality of the draughtsmanship, when you consider that he was etching on copperplate, is stupendous. I particularly like Melencolia I, above.

After peering at ten or twelve of the lesser engravings, though, the majority preoccupied with scriptural themes of apocalypse and retribution, your appetite for images of clouds parting over lanced and writhing horses, however immaculately they may be rendered, begins to diminish a little.

Your mother noticed, too, that while Dürer’s male nudes seemed anatomically perfect, there was something very odd about his execution of the female form and its peculiar distribution of flab. As she put it–and she wasn’t merely imposing anachronistic 21st-century ideals of beauty–it looked like they were wearing fat suits.

Still, the wonderful Chester Beatty Library was well worth visiting for its own permanent collection of Islamic, Chinese and Japanese books and objets d’art. We could happily have spent another hour poring over its gorgeously illuminated Qur’ans and puzzling shogunate knick-knacks. Your mother is still talking in a worryingly covetous tone about one particular mother-of-pearl fan.

We had to leave, though, because your mother was feeling a little tired. The thing is, you see, you’re becoming, well, a foetus of substance. The books we have about foetuses and how they grow tell us that you’re developing a fat suit of your own at the moment, and after an hour or so of pointing her not inconsiderable bump at priceless artifacts, I don’t think your mother found that hard to believe.

Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Fat is good. Bigger is better. Keep up the good work with the adipose deposits. And if your mother has to spend the next three-and-a-half months confined to the sofa, watching graphic obstetrics documentaries and being supplied with high-calorie snacks, I’m sure she’ll manage somehow.

In other news, your mother has been studying the special sound-bouncing pictures those doctors have been taking of you and has announced that you have my head. Don’t panic, it’s not as awful as it sounds–I still have a head too. What she means is that you have a similar head shape and profile to mine.

I think she’s reading a bit too much into the pictures, but if it’s true, I’m sorry about that. You never know, you might get something good from me too. Apparently, I make a very nice cup of tea.

What? It’s a talent.