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  • Writer's pictureTomislav S. Šola

Charles The Decent

History often relies on facts, - not too often though. If based on facts, history would change the world, actually would dismantle it. It is not only written by winners and the powerful but it is also painted by them. That is, by the hirelings. The painting you see at the easel just before it was finished, has ended, some five hundred years later, in a museum. The good and noble king Charles, by the grace of God, King of X, Lord of Y, Duke of Z and W, Count of…. who reigned by laws (he is pointing at the BOOK!) and who brought peace and decency to the country (by which fact his PR made his subjects call him „the decent“) had no idea of museums. But, great rascals who always refuse to die, shrewdly plan how to immortalize themselves. Unlike the pharaohs, they are embalmed into collective memory composition, not a mixture of ingredients but a set of actions and procedures imposed on the societal mind.

So, the king Charles decided to live on in the public memory of society, - well and nicely remembered. At that time, like increasingly today, the state was of little help, so the scientists, artists, writers, actors, professors… depended upon sponsorship of the mighty. The king thus purchased many of his portraits and so did his sycophants, so they were dispersed on all sides of his kingdom. His statues adorned the most representative squares of the cities granted free status. His beneficial help was mentioned at the front pages of many books in the most exquisite praises. The words were written by the grateful beneficiaries who happened to be the greatest minds of his time. Like painters and sculptors, they have become forever the guarantors of the credibility and veracity of the king’s humanist reputation.

In brief, if you take your grandson to a museum, try to observe the paintings by famous artists not only as the works of art but also as the historic object of many dimensions, - as a testimonial to the time and circumstances. Unfortunately, the captions say nothing while the guides only mention the genius mastery of the painter. Museums are unlikely to assist us in the venture as only the rare ones realized that they true mission is to play the role of public intellectuals, - sometimes even that of the tribunes.

(The caricature is part of an abandoned project, done two decades ago by the friend Ivica Kiš after I humbly requested the pictorial translation of the above story; the musicians were such a grim fun…)

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