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What the Mathematican said to the statue

June 18th, 2011 (01:13 pm)

At the end of Lessons in Temptation, there's a reference to Orlando's strange theory about the Venus de Milo. Ever wondered what it was? This little story reveals all...

“Orlando?” It was holiday and ‘Dr Coppersmith’ had been left behind in Cambridge along with St Bride’s and the occasional dunderhead who was staying up for the summer. “I know that I shall immediately regret asking this question, but what are you up to?”

“I’m just looking to see whether this woman has an Adam’s apple.”

Jonty Stewart sat down and fanned himself with his hat. “Blimey, that absolutely takes the biscuit. I would have thought from the lady’s figure there could be little doubt as to her gender.”

“It’s not the body I have an issue with—although I wish she had decided to be slightly more discreet. It’s her face. She looks like a man.” And giving this damning verdict on the Venus de Milo, Orlando sat down and fanned himself as well. Paris was proving particularly hot this summer, a fact that at least meant that the museum was relatively quiet and they could admire the exhibits in peace.

“A man? One of the most famous statues in Europe and you calmly declare that she looks like a chap and then go looking for evidence to prove it?”

“Well, she’s hardly a depiction of the ideal female, at least not to my eyes.” Orlando fixed the statue with a keen expression.

“And who would fill that exalted niche? I didn’t realise that you were an expert on the feminine countenance.” Jonty could have danced with joy; the foreign air was getting to his friend and having the most marvellous effects.

“Your mother or granddame would be a wonderful example of the type.” Orlando spoke as if he were discussing some proof of Euclid’s. “Or even that lady who played Gertrude when we saw Hamlet. Soft feminine lines—not the harsh masculine ones I see on this lady’s face.” He rose again, circling the statue. “She’s softer from the side, but from the front…she hardly seems the most beautiful of all women.”

“Perhaps they had a different estimation of beauty in those days. Fashions change—even Cleopatra would be reckoned as no great shakes now.”

“That was the conclusion I’d reached, although I did wonder whether this really is supposed to be Venus or if someone didn’t make a mistake of attribution along the way.”

“I don’t think so, Orlando. My father has an interesting pamphlet all about her, comparing her to similar statues of the lady in question.” Jonty laid down his hat and had a think. “So it has to be a case of changing tastes.”

“Do you think that there’s any possibility the sculptor had a male model?”

“What an extraordinary idea.”

“Not any more strange than your sonnets and their master/mistress chappie. ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’ and all that stuff. Most people would think those are the sort of words one applies to a woman.”

Jonty had another bit of a think. “No, I can’t agree with it. The line of the back of her neck is too elegant. Even you haven’t quite such grace of carriage.”

Orlando performed another circuit of the statue. “Well, I think I have to conclude that I prefer the winged figure of Victory, headless though she be. Much more life and vigour to her.”

“I’m in agreement with you there—such elegance in the drapery for one thing.” Jonty watched Orlando’s circling; the man resembled nothing so much as a judge at a dog show. “I suppose if you’d been Paris, you’d have said ‘sorry old thing’ and given the judgement to Juno. Or perhaps Apollo. Either way the Trojans would have been better off.” A sudden happy thought struck him. “Would you have given Mama the apple?”

Orlando laughed. “Would I have dared not to? She’d have taken it and brained me with it if I hadn’t. And I suspect that if I saw her in her very pomp then I would have chosen her gladly—I have her glass before me and I know that there can be no face more fine-looking.”

“Idiot boy.” Jonty blushed, adding enormously to his already radiant looks. “Even La Giaconda herself?”

“Even her. Although…” Orlando smiled to himself.

“Although what? Out with it.” Jonty swiped his lover with his hat.

“I think that Antinous was much prettier.” Orlando looked horribly smug, full of secret thoughts that were going to take Jonty immense pains to get out of him.

“Antinous? I didn’t think he was your type.”

“Because he doesn’t look like you? Just because a man likes apple crumble he shouldn’t be denied the opportunity of admiring rhubarb pie, too.”

“You fancy playing Hadrian then, do you, Orlando? As well as Paris? You are going to be a busy boy today.”

“Muffin head. Come on, I can hear neither apple crumble nor rhubarb pie calling me—nor indeed a nice hot crumpet and don’t titter because it doesn’t become you—but a fine piece of camembert, with hot bread and a carafe of white wine. If you don’t want me to go and find a nice little Antinous type to share it with you’d better shift your bahookie, as Miss Peters says.”

“Ariadne never says that. She’s far too well bred.” Jonty fixed his lover with a gimlet gaze, as if trying to establish just what was making the man so bold. “As I always thought you were. I see that we should have come abroad before now—it makes you as bold as a gladiator. Talking of which, did you see that strigil? And do you know what they did with them?”

“I did. I do.” Orlando put on his hat and quickened his stride. “Better ask for some olive oil with that bread…”


Posted by: The massive continuity of ducks (essayel)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 12:50 pm (UTC)

I'm going to permit myself a small and appropriately dignified squeee.


There. Lovely story.

Edited at 2011-06-18 12:50 pm (UTC)

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 12:58 pm (UTC)

LOL. Thank you, sweetie.

Posted by: eglantine_br (eglantine_br)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 01:25 pm (UTC)

Good to see them having such fun. (Although I would like to see them use their strigils!)

Orlando obviously has a discerning eye for art. I think he is right about Venus. She has quite a shnoz.

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 02:06 pm (UTC)

The use of the strigils is strictly off camera.

I agree entirely with Orlando's verdict!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 05:22 pm (UTC)

(Although I would like to see them use their strigils!)

I'm with you on that idea!

Ted Hayes, USA

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
Re: strigils
mrs s?

I bet you would Ted. Just dream about it tonight. :)

Posted by: helenajust (helenajust)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 01:32 pm (UTC)

Lovely! Thank you.

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC)

Thank you for reading an commenting!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 04:44 pm (UTC)

What a wonderful way to wake up, except now I have to start with volume 1 again. For me, these stories will never get old. They are like old friends, they get better with age. Thank you. Jean

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)

My pleasure, Jean. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. There'll be more about orlando's adventures in France at some point...

Posted by: oceankitty1 (oceankitty1)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC)

In fear of being copyrighted: squeeee :D
Love the boys, love you.
And I never liked Venus of Milo. She's flat-chested and lumpy.

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 08:32 pm (UTC)
Jersey 3

She's got more chest than me. :)

Glad you liked it. Hope you find lots of pretty stones and glass.

Posted by: Anne (darthanne)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 09:46 pm (UTC)

Love this. Orlando logically working it all out and his comments about apple crumble and rhubarb pie. And of course the olive oil...

This reminds me of why I enjoy their banter and relationship so much.

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 19th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)

Thanks, dear. I have huge fun writing their banter. (And this is based on an experience the Cochranes had in the Louvre. We reckon VdM has a bloke's face...)

Posted by: Gaycrow (gaycrow)
Posted at: June 18th, 2011 10:13 pm (UTC)

Loved this. I'm in the middle of re-reading the series, so it was especially good to find this little snippet.

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 19th, 2011 03:49 pm (UTC)

So glad the timing worked out well! (And glad you liked it.)

Posted by: Gaedhal (gaedhal)
Posted at: June 19th, 2011 03:56 am (UTC)
PosesLips (Gaedhal)

Oh, boys...

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 19th, 2011 03:44 pm (UTC)

Indeed. What a pair...

Posted by: Stevie Carroll (stevie_carroll)
Posted at: June 19th, 2011 08:27 am (UTC)
Brig -- Good Show by sallymn

Love your boys as always...

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 19th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
tudor garden

Ee, thank you, toots!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 20th, 2011 07:01 am (UTC)

Absolutely fantastic. I love the exchange between Jonty and Orlando, just as I love pretty much all of them. They just put a smile on my face. Thanks for sharing.

Karin :)

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 20th, 2011 10:35 am (UTC)
Jersey 3

Thanks, Karin. The boys solely exist to put smiles on people's faces.

Posted by: rift_bound (rift_bound)
Posted at: June 21st, 2011 12:23 am (UTC)

Ah, just what I needed today! I've been missing the boys in all their glory! Thank you!

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 21st, 2011 11:44 am (UTC)

Thank you for reading and feeding bcak!

Posted by: Mara Allen (tamara_allen)
Posted at: June 22nd, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)

Aww, so lovely. They're the cuddliest boys in m/m. I still wish for a movie version. I can see them so well in my head, but I want to see them on screen. Are you going to have Samhain put all the shorts together in a book? "The Cambridge Chronicles"?

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 23rd, 2011 11:49 am (UTC)

Thank you. (But your lads from 'Whistling' are pretty cuddly, too!) I'd love to see a movie version. BBC classic drama sort of thing. *nods*

And no plans to publish the shorts; they're just a bit of fun.

Posted by: Rikibeth (rikibeth)
Posted at: March 25th, 2012 12:33 am (UTC)

Just found the index today. I may have to ration myself, or else I'll find myself haunting your editor's living room, begging for sneak peeks at #9!

Loved this. Can just picture Jonty's Mama braining Orlando with the apple.

And was it Ellen Terry they saw as Gertrude? That's my guess!

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: March 25th, 2012 12:17 pm (UTC)

LOL There should be enough daftery to keep you going.

I have no idea who they saw as Gertrude but Ellen Terry sounds about right.

Posted by: Rikibeth (rikibeth)
Posted at: March 25th, 2012 03:12 pm (UTC)

Apparently she never played Gertrude, and stayed with Ophelia well past the plausible age, a bit of Googling tells me. :( So it couldn't have been her.

I've become sufficiently obsessive detail-oriented to look up bits like that for my story. Fortunately I haven't sent the dears to the theater yet. Vauxhall Gardens, on the other hand... and I had Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks on headphones while writing the scene. :-)

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