Sunday, 26 February 2012


Light fell through the skylight and struck the shattered mirror on the floor.  Rays lanced out in myriad directions, illuminating motes of dust as they lingered in the air, unwilling to descend to the floor below and wait to be trodden on, and finally striking the painted faces of Popes.  Popes Innocent I through to Innocent XIII, collectively entitled Innocence.
Each Pope had been painted on a large canvas so that they were about 80% of life-size, and each had been painted as accurately as sources would allow.  Most of them were from writings, as Pope Innocent XIII had died in the early 1700s and the first Innocent had lived sometime around the fifth century, but now and then there had been other paintings available for study too.  Geraldinium Holmes had done her best with the material available, but in some cases had made up much of the image from her own imagination.  She'd been quite pleased to discover that there were thirteen Popes Innocent, as it allowed her to set the exhibition up in a circle and tell people that there was a Pope for every hour of the clock-face, and then see their confusion as they tried to work out why they didn't leave the circle when they subconsciously expected to.
  As the light faded through the skylight, because dark clouds were filling the sky and louring with the promise of rain, the artist Geraldinium Holmes opened a small door in the corner of the room and came in.  She was limping; after drinking heavily in a underground bar one evening she'd left, and reached the top of the flight of narrow iron stairs before losing her balance and common sense and falling backwards.  She'd crushed two other people who were also trying to leave, but had come away from it with a sprained ankle and an odd, but mild, fear of iron fire-escapes.  She leant heavily on a walking stick to help her manage her ankle, and she limped across the room to the shattered mirror on the floor.  She peered at it for a little while, and decided that it was right after all, and turned to leave again.  As she did so, Pope Innocent X caught her eye, and she paused to examine his picture again.
Innocent X was considered to be one of the more evil Popes, who had had interests in prolonging wars that had cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and of supporting Civil Wars in European countries.  She looked at his face: long, thin, slightly rat-like, and wondered if she should have emphasized the evil a little more.  Did it contradict the collection's title of Innocence, or could evil be just as innocent in its own way.  She had perched ravens on both of his shoulders, but was that enough?  Perhaps she could add a fly or two, possibly crawling across his robe, or on his hand as it clutched one of his Bulls, the Zelo Domus Dei?  She stood, thinking for a while, and then decided not to.  It had taken her nearly a year to put the collection together, and if she started changing things around now it would be another year before she'd be satisfied again.
She leaned back on her stick again, and limped, a little melodramatically, out of the room, locking the door behind her.  Something about all those Popes together was disturbing.

No comments: