Here is another photo of the Getty Kouros, which may or not be a fake. I always enjoy the back view of Greek kouroi because they have very muscular buttocks and thighs. The Greeks admired powerful hindquarters in a man, and I admire their good taste.
This chapter has adult content.
Max sat in his shirt sleeves in the Institute’s workroom, with the Philadelphia Apollo before him on an adjustable table. It had padded clamps to hold the statuette safely at eye level as he examined it, and an array of magnifiers was set out beside his hand. He was peering at the statue’s narrow, belted waist and starkly defined ribcage.
After the museum closed, Andy had retrieved it from the case herself. While the rest of the conference participants were off enjoying their dinners, she was here allowing Max Desmond a private viewing of the Apollo for the purpose of gathering evidence to expose it as a fake. She scowled, picturing the label she might be forced to post beside the statue if he managed to cast doubt on its authenticity: Early Archaic statue of Apollo. Ca. 620 BCE, or modern forgery. No. She knew this object intimately, and he was wrong.
She stood behind him and to one side, watching him as he worked. Since Rimini, they had scarcely exchanged more than a few words. Max had been introduced on the first evening of the conference by a suddenly grim-faced Barbara, who was no longer quite so charmed with him, yet the keynote he delivered was innocuous enough. He spoke about the technique of chryselephantine sculpture inherited by the Greeks from their Minoan predecessors. Chryselephantine statues were fabricated of gold and ivory, and the extravagant cost of such materials meant that these images almost always represented the gods. The colossal Zeus at Olympia, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, had been constructed of ivory and gold over a wooden core. The Zeus was lost in the mists of antiquity, but a few exquisite, smaller images had survived, whose beauty, even in their ravaged, fragmentary state, caused onlookers to gasp. The crowd received the talk rapturously.
The second day, he had gone on to raise the topic of the Apollo’s authenticity at the round table. It had come to the museum in the seventies, he said, through a dealer who was known to have sold forgeries. The dealer claimed to have obtained it from a European collector before the war, yet its origins to this day were undocumented. Its marble had never been subjected to isotope ratio testing to ascertain the source. Several stylistic features were questionable, and possibly anachronistic, including the suspiciously early appearance of the Archaic smile, and the level of surface detail, which was greater than expected given the state of knowledge of marble working at this period. Although the brief votive inscription to Apollo by the donor, one Telesinos, seemed linguistically impeccable, it was not written on the thighs, as one would expect from parallel examples such as the Mantiklos Apollo or the Nikandre kore, but on the statue’s back.
Gritting her teeth, Andy had responded as best she could to each of these attacks. The dealer who sold the statue was also known to have supplied many authentic pieces. The marble would be sampled and sent for testing now that the issue had been raised. The Auxerre Goddess displayed the Archaic smile, as did some other seventh-century sculptures. Too few early Archaic statues were in existence for scholars to be confident in decreeing what surface detail Greek sculptors were or were not capable of at the time, much less where votive inscriptions ought to be placed. The sample size was simply too small. “I’m surprised at you, Max,” she said, carefully modulating her voice to sound confident rather than angry. “Daedalic statues of this type can be counted on one hand. With so little comparative data, what makes you think you can pronounce this one a fake?”
“A gut feeling,” he said, giving her his most charming smile, “though I admit I have yet to examine the object itself.”
“We’ll take care of that this evening,” she said, matching his smile. “I’m sure you’ll be satisfied. And now I suggest we move on to the other topics on our agenda.” The other scholars at the table murmured amongst themselves, intrigued to discover that the renowned Max Desmond entertained doubts about a statue whose provenance had never been questioned, but they were eager to make their own contributions, and the discussion moved forward.
This morning, she’d dressed in an outfit purchased especially for the conference, a smart gray suit under which she wore a black mock turtleneck with short sleeves. Now, as she watched Max handling the statue, she felt uncomfortably warm and knew she was beginning to sweat. She removed her jacket, hung it on a hook behind the lab door, and returned to observe his work. He was examining the long wiglike hair of the statue through a magnifying glass, assessing the chisel work and the depth of the incised lines, or perhaps the thickness of the locks and their number compared to comparable statues. What exactly was he looking for? She leaned in closer.
He carefully set down the magnifier, but didn’t turn his head. “Andromeda,” he said.
“What?” She continued looking at the same spot he’d been focusing on, a tiny flaw in the greyish marble.
“Are you trying to distract me?”
“Of course not.”
“Then don’t dangle your tits in my face.”
She stood up quickly, gasping in indignation, and turned, but his hand shot out and grasped her by the wrist, hard, as she jerked away. Still seated in the chair, he stared up at her, and she was shocked at the heated look in his dark eyes. It drew a response from the core of her, a powerful jolt of sensation that she recognized, unwillingly, as desire. They stared at each other silently, and then she said, “Let go of me, Max. Now.” He released her, and she waited outside the door until he was finished.
He put on his jacket, and she escorted him from the workroom area and past the security guard. She would rise early tomorrow to return the statue to its case. Now she had to drive him back to the conference center, to his hotel room. She tried not to think about his hotel room.
“Well?” said Andy. She didn’t want to ask, but she couldn’t stop herself.
“There’s no smoking gun, but I’m still unconvinced. When you have the marble tested, you’ll have a much better indication. If it’s from a quarry we know was never worked that early, that’ll sink it. If it’s from Naxos… well, I may have to eat my words.” Naxos was the source of some of the oldest known Greek marbles.
“I’ll let you know,” she said. She saw little of him the next day, and a graduate student took him back to the airport.
John and I had a happy marriage. I scarcely recall a fight, though some would say that this was because he shaped me, or I shaped myself, to his requirements. That’s true, in some ways. Arriving home one day, he was aghast to hear Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” coming from the stereo. John was a devotee of Bach, Handel and Vivaldi, though in amorous moods, he was partial to the romantics Beethoven and Schubert. After that, I stopped listening to my kind of music in favor of his. I never stopped thinking of him as a person whose taste, knowledge and wisdom were superior to my own, as indeed they were. Some aspects of life with John surprised me, like his insistence that we maintain separate bedrooms.
“But I want to be with you,” I objected.
“Then come to me,” he said. “I won’t throw you out.” He thought it was important for us to have our own spaces, and explained that the arrangement would be convenient if one of us had a cold, or wanted to stay up all night reading. He was correct, as usual. He suffered from insomnia, and woke often, whereas I slept long and deeply. He liked to stay up late, while I liked to retire early. At first, I stayed in his bed almost every night, clinging to him, one might say, like a needy child. Later I discovered that the separate bedrooms afforded certain erotic benefits. John liked to visit my room in the evening, and slowly remove the layers of bedclothes and lingerie from me like the wrappings of a gift, or to steal in after my light was out, and slide into my bed, resting his weight on me like a gentle incubus.
He was always a gentle, decorous lover. I believe that was his nature, more than his age. He was a great admirer of Plutarch, who in his advice to a young couple advised the husband that he must never come to his wife drunken and treat her roughly. Such wanton passions were to be expended upon mistresses or prostitutes. A wife was a vessel of her husband’s dignity. She must always be approached with respect and delicacy, and yet husbands should take care to be physically affectionate with their wives on a regular basis, in order to foster a lifelong relationship of amity. Plutarch was a consummate gentleman, and utterly sexist, in keeping with the mores of his age. I wondered whether perhaps John had a mistress whom he spanked or held down as she pretended to struggle— games that were not for Mrs. Elliott. It seemed unlikely, but his was a complex personality. I never felt that I understood him completely.
Plutarch produced in me a certain inhibition, because he also wrote that wives must behave decorously in bed. To be assertive in matters sexual, to revel in naked, primal lust, was the hallmark of a prostitute. I don’t know whether John actually believed this, but if I touched his crotch outside the bedroom, while we were both fully clothed, or lowered my head while we were in bed together to take him into my mouth, or suddenly put myself in charge by climbing on top, he assumed a tolerant, indulgent attitude, as though remembering that, after all, I was still very young and excitable. He thought that sexual activity between a man and his wife was properly conducted in the bedroom with the blinds drawn and the lights out, and he was reluctant to make love on the couch, or heaven forbid, on the floor.
Fortunately, he did not share the ancient gentleman’s aristocratic prejudice against performing oral sex, at least not entirely. I sometimes wonder, though, whether he felt it was beneath him to kneel like a suppliant between my legs. It was something he did on special occasions. Scholar and gentleman that he was, he had made a study of such things, and he understood that it was the easiest way for me to reach a climax. Although he tried to hide it from me, I knew that he was anxious about keeping me sexually satisfied, and worried that I might become attracted to someone younger. I never was. No other man had the fascination for me that John had, even as he grew undeniably old, his hair turned white, and his body lost its strength.
In his mid-sixties, he started to have trouble maintaining an erection. If we wanted to make love, he had to avoid alcohol altogether at dinner. I told him that it was natural and that he shouldn’t worry because I loved him no matter what, but he was having none of it. By then, Viagra had been available for a couple of years, and he wasted no time getting a prescription. No wonder men are enchanted by it; it made his penis as hard as a twenty-year old’s, though of course there was a certain loss of spontaneity, as he had to take it an hour before sex. At that point I was in my thirties, and deeply involved in my career. Sometimes I came home tired, and not particularly interested in sex, whereas he had been sitting at home all day, waiting for my return. Our marriage and subsequent moves cost him his social network, a sacrifice which I don’t think I appreciated at the time.
Copyright 2015 by Linnet Moss
Notes: My favorite thing about this chapter is that we finally learn Andy’s full name. It is probably a good thing that I don’t have a daughter, because I just might have named her Andromeda.
If you’re a Ciarán Hinds fan, you will have noticed the Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On” reference. Mr. H. even has a T-shirt with “What’s Going On.” But I wrote this in 2012 and Conor McPherson’s The Night Alive (which featured the song) debuted in 2013. It’s a meaningful coincidence, an example of what Carl Jung calls synchronicity.
I’ve always loved Marvin Gaye.
The gentlemanly Plutarch is one of my favorite Greek prose authors. I’m currently reading his Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, quite a monumental work. I wish I could meet him.
Chryselephantine statues are fascinating. The great ones, like the colossal Zeus at Olympia and the statue of Athena from the Parthenon, have been lost. But a few bits and pieces exist. Two burnt examples were found at Delphi. Here’s one of them.