Posts here at the Agincourt blog have trickled to a halt. There are reasons for that but I can’t discuss them right now. Truth be told, I can barely admit them myself. It turns out I’m a fragile, high-maintenance guy who’s easily discouraged. And that’s the good stuff!
“Paper”—the title of the June 23rd entry—tempts me to explore the childhood trinity of Paper-Scissors-Stone. Stone (or Rock, where I come from) breaks Scissors. Fair enough. And Scissors cuts Paper. Too true; it’s supposed to. But Paper also covers Stone, a distant echo perhaps of the meek inheriting the earth.
I wondered if “Scissors” and “Stone” might join “Paper” in a trilogy of pieces by my friend Howard Tabor. Let’s send him good wishes and hope for inspiration.
“A few figs from thistles…”
by Howard A. Tabor
Folks at fine art auction houses like Sotheby’s are obsessed with the idea of provenance.
Provenance in the world of art is equivalent to a chain of evidence in law or a chain of command in war. When that chain of evidence is interrupted—when a continuous thread linking a smoking gun from the scene of a crime to the courtroom prosecution of that crime months later is broken—the accused go free; their guilt or innocence cannot be proved beyond the obligatory shadow of doubt. Justice is unsatisfied. By contrast, provenance seems like a sleazy commercial ploy to increase the hammer price of an antique or a work of art.
If you purchase the contents of an abandoned storage locker [sounds like a cable TV reality show, doesn’t it] and discover an unknown painting looking suspiciously like the work of Vincent van Gogh, don’t quit your day job. To achieve that seven- or eight-figure auction price, you and your auctioneer will have to establish an unbroken link between that undocumented work and van Gogh himself or his immediate family or his dealer. Your multi-million dollar windfall stands or falls on the authenticity of its provenance.
Sure, anonymous objects pass through our hands each day—a five dollar bill that bought your lunch; a book borrowed from the public library; a pen found in a parking lot—and we give not a thought to their provenance or our place along its tenuous thread. So, I offer the following with caution—not because it may lack Truth (as I see it), but because I want even the most ordinary object to tell its extraordinary tale. I offer the provenance of a pair of sheers.
Scissors don’t just cut; they can also kill.
I sat in the back row of Courtroom A at the Fennimore County Courthouse last week. My press credentials got me a coveted seat in what may be our trial of the century: the trial for murder of local person by someone just passing through. You’ve read their names in the Plantagenet; you’ve heard their names over pie at the Koffee Kup, so I won’t repeat them here. But as I sat in that back row, I wondered about a piece of evidence—perhaps the key piece of evidence—waved at us by the State’s Attorney: a pair of scissors, the purported weapon in a crime of passion. The prosecutor could show a chain of evidence to the accused, but I wondered how much farther back the links in that chain might reach.
The courtroom was full that day. Standing room only—except they didn’t allow standing. But of one hundred-plus people who won the spectator lottery on Friday, how many looked at those sheers and felt they’d seen them before? I did.
It was the summer of 1952, I think, and I was seven years old. My mother had hired Larth Munro to mow our lawn. He was thirteen. But in August, just before the end of summer recess, Larth’s appendix burst and he was hospitalized for several days. When he was allowed home, mother and I went to the Munro house to wish him well; I brought him some of my baseball cards.
Larth and his mother Elie lived on Lilac Lane in one of its Arts & Crafts four-plexes now a National Register historic district. Mom was interested to learn about Miss Munro’s experience as an apprentice archaeologist in Italy many year earlier. They poured over her photo albums while Larth and I talked about the World Series. I liked him.
<a work in progress>