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Despite having left Syston, on the outskirts of Leicester, decades ago, I still swell with pride at the many of the city’s achievements, only to cringe at some of its gaffes. The King Richard III wax head, commisioned by The King Richard III Society, fits into the latter category. I know he’s dead but does his waxwork effigy have to look even deader?
Last week I asked whether this is the best Leicester can do in my article Richard III – really, Leicester? Really? and included a poll to get your views. Before I reveal the answers you gave, here’s an update on that.
On Tuesday, I emailed Leicester’s voice, the Leicester Mercury, to drum up some publicity and get the newspaper’s thoughts on the subject. The response was almost instant, coming in the form of an automaton telling me my email had been received. The device went on to intimate my computer might accidentally get a virus as a result of the exchange. It was the sort of unsolicited nod, towards the direction I should take, I might’ve expected from a mafiosi cyborg cracking its titanium knuckles. Know what I mean? It could just as well have read, “I godda some verry clumsy friends wanna meeta your lapa’top, innit?” Maybe I hit a raw nerve. Obviously, best not to mess with the mechanical biffs manning the newsdesk.
Though there’s little doubt Leicester and Leicesterhire folk owe a great debt to the King Richard III Society for helping get to the bottom of the riddle of King Richard’s bones, there’s one bone left needs picking. In this day and age why on earth do we have to endure a head that looks like a tatty waxwork exhibit from a House of Horrors sideshow in a 1950s travelling fair?
Last week I was being kind, choosing the best photo I could find, this week I show the harsh reality. Judge for youselves from the selection at the top of this article. With all the advantages of modern techonlogy and materials can it be so hard to make something that actually looks like a real human head? Having spent a lot of time with the well-known sculptor Karen Newman, when I lived in London years ago, the answer is an emphatic “no.”
Karen used to live at her old studio in Holland Park’s Pottery Lane long before the area became popular among billionaire tax evaders and sleazy toffs. In the 1970s we used to spend hours and hours together listening to Van Morrison records scraping round and round her record deck while staring at the colours dancing across her walls. Things have looked up since the days we hung out, but I don’t think the two are necessarily connected.
Karen has worked for Madame Tussaud’s on a freelance basis since 1980. Her long list of famous works include the heads of Yoko Ono, Prince Philip, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, David Hockney and Hugh Grant. Pictured here is her excellent wax head of artist David Hockney. Karen is just one example of a contemporary sculptor, who has experience of working in wax, capable of injecting life into the sculptures of her subjects. There are more just as capable.
With photos of the wax head of King Richard III being published in newspapers and magazines all over the world, as well as appearing on TV and computer screens, doesn’t anyone have a straight enough spine to tell the King Richard III Society, the head they commissioned, is not good enough to represent the city of Leicester and its people?
Before seeing what you thought, and announcing the final results of my week long international survey on the matter, take another look at the photos I published last week, asking which of the two looked most lifelike.
Okay, I admit I cheated. The one on the left is the original wax head photographed in a vey favourable light. The one on the right is the same photo, but altered slightly using photoshop. I cut and pasted a pair of real eyes onto it and enchanced the cheekbones a touch to give the face a more realistic look. So let’s get on with seeing what the big world out there said.
Nil from Holland commented: “Seems I’m the first to vote – but haven’t got a clue, really…” Thanks for the valuable input Nil. Eager as they come, Ginjuh of Alabama, begged me to give her some inside information. “Now tell me they are BOTH wax. Out with it…” I had to remind her very firmly that she would have to wait for the official announcement like everybody else. No amount of arm-twisting would work, unless accompanied by financial inducements deposited in the off-shore account of one of my shell companies. But you can’t get much past Ginjuh, she saw through the ruse. Making no bones about her preference, Linda from Boise, Idaho (not Indiana), was sharp and to the point, writing, “I also prefer the portrait.” In one of those amazing coincidences that send a shiver down your spine, Wendy from Andalusia in Spain said “I sort of know somebody who looks a bit like that…” What are the odds of that? One in a quadrillion times ten, I shouldn’t wonder, give or take a couple.
And talking of numbers, though small in comparison with the odds of Wendy sort of knowing somebody who looks a bit like a tatty waxwork exhibit from a House of Horrors sideshow in a 1950s travelling fair, the international sample of voters who ventured to express their opinion was of extremely high quality and intelligence.
As the results sound much more important quoted in percentages, I’ll do that first. 47.67% of voters said the photo on the right looked more lifelike. 33.33% believed the photo on the right was of a male model. 16.67% thought the photo on the left looked more lifelike (you lot need your eyes testing), and 8.33% shouldn’t cross roads by themselves, as they thought the one on the left was the photo of a male model. Okay, okay, I own up, only a dozen of you cast your votes, but I still think the Leicester Mercury and the Mayor of Leicester should take note of your views, and a hearty, big thanks to all for taking part.
Here is a view of the final results:
Copyright © 2015 Bryan Hemming
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