If Charles V Had Posed for Montorsoli

This is the first in a series of quick, mostly unedited, short stories I am planning to do this year. The idea is, I go to a museum, pick a painting or a sculpture or a something, and then quickly write a story while standing or sitting in front of it. Like gesture drawings, but for stories. I only read the description after I’ve written the story.

Giovan Angelo Montorsoli   
Holy Roman Emperor Charles V 
1439-41
Marble
(from the description at the Currier Museum of Art)
“In the first half of the 16th century, the Charles V was the most powerful leader in Europe, ruling the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and much of Italy. He was widely revered as a statesman and military genius. Montorsoli shows Charles V wearing a suit of armor to signify his military authority. It is very likely that this bust was commissioned by Andrea Doria of Genoa. Two other versions were produced at the same time as gifts to the imperial court in Spain.
Museo Nazionale della Certosa di San Martino, Naples.”

“Like this?” Charles V turned his head slightly and smiled with his teeth bared, his lips stretched wide.

“No, no, that’s awful. Close your lips, your teeth look weird.”

“I thought I should look pleased.”

“You don’t look pleased, you look psychotic. Just relax your face and twist your head a little so it looks like you’re looking at something in the middle distance.”

Charles V sighed and grunted. “This breastplate is heavy.”

“Of course it’s heavy, it’s made of metal. Do you want this bust to happen or not?”

“I just don’t understand why I have to sit so still, I feel foolish. I am a Holy Roman Emperor. I am meant to move. To stride! To fight! Not sit on a stool with my lips pursed.”

“Listen Charles, may I call you Charles? I don’t trot out to your battlefields and tell you how to fight, don’t come in my studio and tell me how to sculpt.” Montorsoli turned away and muttered, “Asshole,” under his breath. He was bold, but not that bold.

Charles V slumped a little, then wiggled a bit, then sat up straight and started imagining spilling the blood of the vanquished, and then gnawing on a succulent hindquarter of lamb. This was not so bad. He would eat a meal after this nonsense was over with. He would kill a man for calling him Charles.


In the gallery copy of the show’s exhibition catalogue it mentions that Charles V likely did not sit for this rendering of his bust. Rather Montorsoli was working from memory after seeing Charles V roll by during a parade. Which is mind boggling to me.

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