3rd The Famous Five

The faint aromas of linseed oil, turpentine and candle wax pervade the atmosphere. Multi-hued spatterings of paint streak and smear the floor and walls. In the middle of the room stands a heavy wooden easel with a large three metre by two metre canvas resting horizontally upon it. Six months earlier Francisco Goya completed his controversial masterpiece ‘The Naked Maja’, and the king of Spain, the court, their countrymen and their many visitors are still talking about it.

As he has done several times this morning, Francisco stands staring pensively at the white-painted rectangle. Thoughtfully he chews at the end of his paintbrush, distractedly picking a splinter of wood from his lip. The canvas stares blankly back. He sighs: ‘Well, better get back to basics!’

Walking to a table by the wall, he sits and pulls a large workbook closer. He will set down in written form a series of descriptions of the five-minute episode he wishes to paint, and then translate them into a collage in pictorial form upon the canvas. Dipping a quill pen into the inkwell he commences to write:

‘The lion and the lamb walked across the grass and lay down in the shade of a large, central apple tree. It was a beautiful morning and the smiling sun shone benignly down upon the Garden of Eden. To one side a stream of crystal-clear water bobbled and chuckled as it meandered through the clearing. A light breeze whispered occasionally in the treetops and an owl hooted quietly. Some crickets began a staccato chorus then fitfully stopped. Frogs croaked to one another in the creek and many-coloured birds twittered and wove as they passed their messages. A pig grunted in the distance and the lion growled softly to the lamb as they joined in the conversation. It continued happily, for some minutes. Words faded and in the ensuing silence the sad sound of someone sobbing could be heard. On a low rock in the corner sat a golden-haired, naked girl. They were all immediately concerned.

The lion gently placed a large paw on her knee:
– ‘Don’t cry darling, everything’s going to be alright!’
– ‘But he doesn’t love me!’

There was some confusion at this and for a long moment no-one knew what to say. At length the owl spoke up:
– ‘From my experience it’s all a question of presentation.’
– ‘What do you mean?’
– ‘Well…’ the owl looked slightly embarrassed, – ‘you’re very beautiful and all that, but perhaps you shouldn’t put all your assets on display all at once.’
– ‘I know, I know, I know, I know!’ the monkey jumped up and down excitedly, – ‘You need a G-string! I can make you one, just some vine leaves from the forest, I’ll get them now!’ and he bounced off into the trees.
– ‘Yes,’- said the lamb, – ‘And how about some eyeliner and makeup? We could make them from a bit of charcoal and water!’

The lion was beaming and even the girl was beginning to smile.
– ‘What about this?’ With a wicked smile on her face, the ostrich strutted around in a provocative circle, swinging her hips suggestively from side to side. At this the whole group rolled about in convulsions of laughter.
– ‘How about some ribbons in her hair?’ suggested the crocodile, who wasn’t known for beauty tips.
– ‘Yeah, could do.’ said the lion diplomatically. – ‘But it’s lovely and golden already. Might be OK as it is.’
– ‘Hang on, he might be on to something.’ said the parrot. – ‘I’ll get some sprigs of lavender and we can break them up and hide them in her hair. It’ll smell lovely!’

The croc smiled appreciatively.
– ‘This is going to work.’ The lion thought.
By this time the monkey had neatly tied some vine leaves together, and all gathered around as the girl tried the garment on. She turned about in a slow, shy circle. Then, gathering confidence, performed a couple of showy pirouettes. They leapt about enthusiastically, clapping in approval. With a lot of encouragement and mirth the company prevailed upon her to try the ostrich walk. She did so with unexpected talent! The sad spell was finally broken.’

Francisco Goya rises contentedly to his feet and walks over to a cupboard. He selects some pigments and, humming to himself all the while, begins the careful business of mixing colours.
– ‘I think I’ll call it ‘The First Five Minutes.”

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