My vision for the next (and presumably last) Agincourt exhibit is large. There are simply too many ideas in my head. Some will never materialize; many will depend on the kindness, creativity and energy of others. A few of them will become plays within the play. The theme is “Homecoming/Coming Home” and the myriad meanings of that much-abused word home.
From the outset, the Agincourt Public Library designed by Anson Tennant was to include a memorial gallery. The core works displayed there were collected by the Tennant family and expanded by gifts and acquisitions. Small unprepossessing works that individually might not seem worthy of public display, but which collectively are greater than their sum. You’ll be surprised that there are already more than twenty-five in this show within the show.
Each of these small artworks tells a story—a story often far larger than the work itself. And that’s where you come in. Is there anyone who’d like to write one of those stories?
PETTENKOFEN, August, “Death and the Scholar” (oil on panel, 5″ by 7 7/8″; undated)
“Death and the Scholar”
One of these two dozen paintings was done by August Xaver Karl Ritter von Pettenkofen [1822-1889]. It’s a study for a larger work that may not have been realized; the miniature for what ought to be hanging in a European museum and been stolen by Nazi art thieves.
In the smokey masculinity of a 19th century study, a formally-dressed scholar confronts the robed figure of Death, scythe in hand, casting an ominous bear-like shadow. The work is untitled but I’ve labelled it “Death and the Scholar” and imagined a bargain struck between them. Is the scholar delaying his own death or offering himself in place of another? What could he offer that Death would accept? If O. Henry were alive, I’d commission a short story. Lacking that, let me present this challenge to you: Write the parable of Death and the Scholar.