You really shouldn’t have
The real Monuments Men
It’s still winter, and there’s still nothing to do outside. There’s plenty to do inside: work, schoolwork,a SQL class I was teaching, but when I’m done with all of that, there’s still winter. So Mr. B and I have decided, I guess, that we’re just going to watch terrible movies until the weather breaks 50 degrees, which is, I think, standard operating procedure in Finland.
So yesterday we went to see Monuments Men. I had mediocre expectations, and even those were all shattered by how terrible this movie is. I could go on and on about how it panders to the audience, how it’s historically inaccurate, and how they have real star power in the film firing on only one cylinder, but instead I want to talk about the story behind the movie.
Monuments Men is based on a book of the same name about a group of 400 U.S. servicemembers and civilians (from important art centers like like MoMA and the National Gallery) who worked on the front lines in Europe as World War II came to a close to find and return precious works of art to their original places before the Nazis or Soviets kept them. This stash included millions of pieces confiscated from wealthy Jews.
Having been to Europe and looked at countless pieces of priceless art that contribute to the history of humanity, my main comment is, was it really worth it for the Monuments Men to risk their lives?
The reason I pose the question is because every single piece of European art is the same.
Look. Look at all these pictures of the Madonna with child. Would we really be worse off if a couple were missing? I mean, yeah, sure, I guess we can lament the loss of Madonnas wearing different-colored dresses.
But really, it’s all the same painting.
Because, have you ever been to a European art museum? I have.
The first gallery of early medieval art is beautiful and links you to the past. By the third gallery, your eyes are watering. If you are in a large museum, there are more than three galleries, and that’s when the seizures start. There are a LOT of Madonnas. Please, no more Madonnas, you say. Please, you ask your partner.
Can we sit down and take a break, because we’ve been walking through six or more galleries of Madonnas and Holy God Almighty you are praying to the Madonna of the Rose and the Madonna of the Cross and Madonna the Blessed that people stop painting Madonnas so we can exit these galleries and move on with our lives?
No, your partner says. We paid almost $32 American dollars for admission, not to mention all the money we spent flying to Italy, so we are going to look at all these Madonnas, one by one.
Your feet start bleeding gently.
Then the fruit starts. Good Lord, do people love to paint fruit. Grapes, pears, apples. Apple cores. Grape stems. Seeds. Good God, the seeds. Pomegranates. Now, I know the tropical fruit people are faking because pomegranates didn’t even exist in Europe until Yotam Ottolenghi singlehandedly brought all the pomegranates from Israel to flavor dishes in London in the 1990s.
And then the self-portraits start. Are you, in 2014, tired of selfies? Do you think it’s a new trend that only college girls do? You’re wrong.
People used to do selfies all the time. You just had to have trillions of dollars made from unethical business activities probably tied to either ships, rum, or tobacco to do it right. People were so rich that it wasn’t even called a selfie. It was called someone with 20 years of experience painting masterpieces coming to paint your royal ass in a wig.
“But, they’re all different and unique and show different styles of dress, the nuance of the light, the master’s stroke…”
Nope. They’re all the same, with the same message, and that message is, “You were rich, and you were being selfied.”
Monuments Men risked life and limb trying to save countless pieces of art. But maybe they could have just been safe at home in New York or Washington with a gin and tonic in their hands (that’s the only thing people drank in the 40s, right?), listening to the radio. ” ‘Still Life with Fruit’ has been carted off by the Germans,” the radio would crackle in the distance.
“Ahh, good,” the Monuments men would say. “How many more are there, and how quickly can they get rid of them?”
If only people at least painted something different with their portraits of dudes in wigs or lemons. Something that’s not just a bunch of fruit lying on a plate. How about some fruit and a bunch of grape leaves? Oh, that’s been done already? Then how about some fruit and a creepy monkey? And toss a dead pheasant on there. Also a cat that looks like it’s going to murder you in your sleep? Now we’re talking. Mark this one for saving ASAP.
By the way, I got all these paintings from WikiPaintings, which is where they should be, tucked in neatly in their little digital galleries, kept away from the public.