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Sunday, October 15, 2006

From the Ancient Land of Happy Objects

A return trip to the de Young Museum in San Francisco turned up this fellow, a local emissary from Remojadas, the ancient Land of Happy Objects. Cheeky Pete was delighted to learn of this long-sought ur-object, the King of Happy Objects, but despite intense imaginary negotiations with the de Young curatorial staff, it was not possible for him to obtain the King for the museum's Happy Objects Collection. The King thus remains trapped in his plexiglass case. He is originally from the Veracruz area of Mexico, and is some 1300 years old. The Metropolitan Museum in New York has a cousin of his, and nervily suggests that his happiness is primarily due to intoxication.

The Remojadas culture had its "Classic" period between 500 and 800 AD, and produced a large number of "smiling figures". Further research by the curatorial staff has revealed the existence of a classic 1960 tome about the figurines produced in Remojadas: William Spratling's More human than divine: An intimate and lively self-portrait in clay of a smiling people from ancient Vera Cruz. Spratling was a collector, and waxes naively rhapsodic about the people who produced these figurines:
The little people of Remojadas flourished, loving their own creations, presumably in utter peace and contentment, for more than eight hundred years.

The main attraction of the book is the set of plates by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, a leading Mexican photographer often linked with the Surrealists. The photographs reveal that the figurines had a whole range of expression, not just smiling. The plates are classics of artifact photography.


Anonymous said...

I am so pleased that Cheeky Pete has some friends now :-). Too bad they are not more proximate.


6:25 PM  
Judith Hoffman said...

I'm surprised Cheeky Pete couldn't talk the de Young out of the King. His unrelenting cheerfulness must be very convincing in person. Great pictures, too. I love your shot of the King, trapped in his plexiglass box. Are those his subjects on either side? The black and whites are beautiful, too. Good find.

11:34 AM  

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