Ron Singer

El Greco’s Portrait of The Cardinal-Inquisitor (detail)

Who can forget those glasses, black, anachronistic, of Cardinal de Guevara, the Grand Inquisitor, like Clark Kent’s, but for peering into x-rated souls? Or his hat, a berretta? (The gun is “Beretta.”)

But what about the paper bearing El Greco’s name, crumpled, ignored, on the floor?

One critic speculates that this was a petition for patronage to Sandoval y Rojas, Guevara’s successor, and that Rojas was the real subject of the portrait, with its great bravura, striking tessitura.

Let me step up to the plate with a different idea, fancy, melodramatic: Intending to burn The Greek, de Guevara’s mind wandered, to who knows what—dinner? a more urgent heresy?

But, if The Greek lucked out, why call the priest’s attention to the dropped death warrant?

Like a good historian, I’ll fall back on known fact: Doménikos always signed his work.

Information from;

Fall: 2014. After Bruegel’s “Fall of Icarus”

“Dear Margaret, Check received, much appreciated.”

Is it still fall, when all the leaves have fallen? It starts to seem like winter, as in “nuclear ...” or “... of our discontents.”

“The timing could not have been better. I happen to need a new hat.”

That’s a fact. Just today, I noticed that the felt on the crown of my hat (a Kangol cap) had worn away, from black to a powdery white.

“We don’t have many tall friends,” suggested my wife. “But, if you’re worried, why not try some masking tape?”

I did try, by winding tape around all the fingers of my right hand, except the thumb. It did not work. The felt is worn, not powdery, so the whiteness would not lift.

Is the wagon driver in “The Fountain of Youth” by Lucas Cranach the Elder wearing a cap like mine? And did you notice how the old women, young again and absorbed in courtly pleasures, ignore the beggar at the far right of the painting? (Did it --the painting, the fountain-- turn Cranach into the Younger?)

Then there’s the Bruegel, the famous one of the splashdown, only Icarus’ legs still showing, in the bottom-right corner with the bird, sheep, and fisherman, equally indifferent.

Not to be smart, but this fall, there have been at least three splashdowns in my own life. These may be glimpsed in the corners of a large painting called “Vignettes of Encroaching Age,” including receipt of the envelope with the check (an event, now that I’m retired), and the attempt to clean my cap with masking tape (the first of my hats to have worn out).

Three splashdowns: Ferguson, Cleveland, Staten Island. (And come to think of it, others, too.) To those concerned –the families, lovers, and friends of the victims, plus police, politicians, and a significant portion of the citizenry -- my hat, the check, even my worrisome age (seventy-three) would be barely noticeable splashes in the corners of their lives.

But never mind. Life (as Bruegel, then Auden, famously understood) goes on. So...

“I plan to cash your check first thing tomorrow, Margaret, and use some of the money to buy myself that new hat. Thanks again, Ron.”

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