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The Scrivener: The Whinges Of Henry IX

There’s a life-size replica of the Lincoln imp, a considerably less-than-life-size copy of Michelangelo’s David, a naked Etruscan lady… Then there’s Henry IX.

Brian Barratt introduces us to some of the distinguished personages in his private collection.

For more of Brian’s joyous words click on The Scrivener in the menu on this page. And do please visit his Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/

Oh dear me, it’s a right royal rumpus. Henry IX is whingeing again. He doesn’t like sitting at a lower level than the Imp. He disapproves of David. The Belgian boy shouldn’t do what he’s doing. And as for that Etruscan lady, well, she’s just plain rude.

There’s a life-size replica of the Lincoln Imp high up on the opposite wall, you see. It’s made of reconstituted sandstone from the time Lincoln Cathedral was being cleaned, repaired and restored. Which Lincoln, you ask? Oh, come off it! There’s only one Lincoln of importance and it’s in Lincolnshire. There are other Lincoln Imps around the place. One of them is in the form of a brass door-knocker. It might alarm a few visitors but there it shall stay. Most visitors ring the old cow-bell, anyway.

Reconstituted ivory was used to make the considerably less-than-life-size copy of Michelangelo’s David. (At least, that’s what the man said.) He came from Rome to Australia in the 1960’s, at a time when our enlightened police-persons were seizing portrayals of the naked David. Disgusting pornography! He had to be brought in somewhat surreptitiously, along with quite a few books which were also banned. In those days, Lady Chatterley had to stay hidden.

As for the manikin from Brussels, he’s having a pee, except that this metal copy isn’t connected to the city’s water system. He’s very small indeed, but if the police-persons saw him in here now, there would probably be a hoo-hah about child pornography. Maybe Henry IX has a point.

The naked Etruscan lady came from London. From the British Museum, actually. She is another life-size replica, even though she’s only about 12cm long. Her original station in life was to be a handle on a pot. To do this, she stretched herself backward. With her feet on the ground, and her hands on the ground behind her head, she arches upward and displays very distinctive proof of her, well, her gender.

But not everyone here is naked. For instance, there’s a replica of an entombed warrior. He came direct from China, without any commercial negotiation in Australia. He’s disentombed, of course. He stands among many other Chinese artefacts. The loveliest of all is the ceramic laughing Buddha. His great belly swells in front of him while he raises his hands and chortles. There’s actually some deep philosophical symbolism going on there, about how to deal with the burdens of life.

Visitors are puzzled by the three large and heavy wooden carvings from an area in east central Africa. Made of real ebony, they each tell a story in a completely surrealistic way. The wood-carvers were considerably stimulated by the dagga (hemp) they smoked before setting to work. The most impressive piece depicts — by means of four intertwined figures — the cycle through birth, puberty, pregnancy, lactation, and death.

Other figures from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Congo and India stand around the room. This is a museum rather than a house.

Henry IX is too far away on the other side of the room to see the pot-hanger from New Guinea. Thank goodness for that. It’s another display of nakedness, but this time the person involved is, shall we say, enormously male. He hangs, by the way. He doesn’t project.

Henry IX sits alongside several others of his kind — Wolliam the Kinkerer, Hamilton Place, Albert, and Henry the Hiker. When I was in a lot of pain before and after surgery some years ago, he arrived in the post as a gift from kind friends. One of my students said he looks like me, he looks intellectual. Even though he’s wearing an old-fashioned nightie. And why shouldn’t an intellectual teddy-bear wear an old-fashioned nightie?

But his title, Henry IX? I really should let you in on a secret. He isn’t royalty at all. His parents were Mr and Mrs Hicks. They called their little boy-teddy Henry. However, they couldn’t pronounce their aitches, so he came to be known as ’Enry ’Icks. See?

© Copyright 2006 Brian Barratt


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