The full-length male nude, bought at auction in 1997, was thought to be the work of Lucian Freud—an assumption denied by the painter, who nevertheless immediately offered to buy it, according to the man who did. “He said: ‘I’ll give you more than you paid, I’ll double it,’” said the buyer as reported in The Guardian. “I declined, and he became very aggressive, with bad words. He said: ‘In that case, you will never sell it.’” By claiming it wasn’t one of his, Freud—who died in 2011—guaranteed that the value of Standing Male Nude remained an open question. But an independent study has finally concluded it’s probably his after all.
Why that reaction from the artist, long ago? “Although Freud was known for his many female lovers, he is thought to have had early gay affairs,” said the newspaper. A private investigator discovered that the canvas had “hung in a Geneva flat secretly used by fellow artist Francis Bacon and gay friends, with Freud among its visitors” and that a living witness “knew about the relationship between Freud and Bacon … [and] said Bacon asked Freud to paint this for him.” One further detail might shed even more light on the painter’s disavowal: it appears that Standing Male Nude is probably not only a Freud, but Freud himself—a self-portrait.
Greenpeace is hoping that the Succession episode in which Cousin Greg learns he stands to lose his inheritance to the environmental group might result in an increase in donations. “Greg … threatens to sue Greenpeace, before his erstwhile confidant, Tom Wambsgans, remarks approvingly: ‘I like your style. Who are you going after next? Save the Children?’” reported The Times of London. “Greenpeace[’s] digital team changed the group’s Twitter handle to ‘Gregpeace’ and tweeted Nicholas Braun, who plays Greg: ‘we heard Cousin Greg wants to sue Greenpeace’ with a link to advice on donating. Braun replied, in character, ‘still gonna do it’. Save the Children got involved too, asking Braun if they were next. He responded: ‘No no, the children are safe.’ The exchange has generated more clicks than any other link shared on Greenpeace’s Twitter account.” The newspaper also reported that “more than 22,000 people have accessed online advice about making donations in their wills to Greenpeace.”
A thousand lots is a lot of Karl Lagerfeld, but that’s how many are up for online auction at Sotheby’s. The late designer’s estate sale includes several Rolls-Royces and “a Jeff Koons Balloon Venus, numerous lots bearing Lagerfeld’s likeness—from his portrait by Takashi Murakami to Tokidoki dolls—as well as tableware, household linens, a metal chair by Marc Newson, chrome Aston Martin dumbbells, a zebra print jacket made with velvet, metal, silver sequins and beads, and a silver metal and wood 24-light chandelier,” according to The Times of London. The Lagerfeldiana, gathered from the designer’s properties in France and Monaco, includes some of his fingerless mittens and a scratching pad belonging to his cat (and rumored heir), Choupette.
Also up for sale through Sotheby’s: Edith Piaf’s houseboat, Flamant Rose, long docked on the Seine as the singer’s HQ when she was on tour but now at St. Katharine Docks, in London. The one-bedroom, two-bathroom property, whose floor plan suggests a seaworthy railroad flat, has an estimated price of $2 million.
George Orwell’s longing for lost love, as evidenced by newly revealed letters to two former girlfriends, might have provided some of the raw material for Winston Smith’s memories in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Private correspondence including some 50 letters from the (eventually) married Orwell to Eleanor Jaques and Brenda Salkeld has been donated by the author’s son to an academic archive. “We now know that he was in touch with both women for much longer than we thought,” the Orwell expert D. J. Taylor told The Guardian, “and I have a strong suspicion his letters to Eleanor reminiscing about their country walks inspired similar passages describing Winston’s affair with Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four.” But the revelation in the new archival stash that’ll really have biographers buzzing? Orwell loved ice-skating.
In other literary news, Nineteen Eighty-Four’s spare opening sentence (“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen”) is at 14 words a tad on the long side by today’s standards. “British fiction authors are using fewer words per sentence, abandoning semicolons, and are increasingly indifferent to the exclamation mark, according to a study that compared works from the early 1990s with those of today,” reported The Times of London. “The average sentence in fiction has dropped from 12.73 words to 11.87 over the period, a change researchers put down to more people communicating via social media, which rewards pithiness and readability.” But surely semicolons and exclamation marks have some value. Like, Jonathan Coe’s 2001 novel, The Rotters’ Club, must be an outlier; it has a sentence that goes on for 13,955 words!
When it comes to finding a way to build faster bullet trains, a team of Chinese scientists is winging it. Their new study “found that adding five pairs of small wings on each train carriage would generate additional lift and reduce the weight of the train by nearly a third, taking the top speed to 450km/h (280mph),” reported the South China Morning Post. The trains’ current top speed is 217 m.p.h. By comparison, high-speed trains in France can reach 200 m.p.h., and in the U.S. and U.K., 125 m.p.h.
Boris Johnson’s speech last week to the Centre for Policy Studies has been much kicked around, as has the man who delivered it. The prime minister, apparently riffing extemporaneously, considered an animated porcine character popular with the British pre-school set through the prism of free trade—or maybe it was the other way around? In any event, here is just a little of what he said:
I don’t know if you’ve heard the news my friends but yesterday I went to Peppa Pig World. Hands up who has been to Peppa Pig World? I was initially quite hesitant but I found it was very much my kind of place. It had good schools, excellent health care — there’s a bear called Dr Brown Bear, no trouble too great, always turns up for a consultation. Superb infrastructure — novel transport systems in Peppa Pig World. And safe streets, virtually no crime. But what amazed me most of all was the discovery that this hairdryer shaped pig has already got two theme parks in her honor in China and two I think in America and she is currently exported, her shows and her merchandise, to 180 countries around the world in a multi-billion pound franchise. Isn’t that an astonishing thing?… If we can sell this Picasso-oid pig to Chinese children there is no limit to our creative abilities. Peppa’s influence, cultural influence — she’s got a younger brother called George by the way — is so pervasive that kids in America now say “tomahto” instead of “tomato” and “mummy” rather than “mom.” And there you go — that is believed to be a direct result of Peppa Pig and that is the effect of the free trade in which Margaret Thatcher believed.
Permutations of the classic board game Monopoly are nothing new, but a company called Top Trumps, by monetizing a new twist on product placement, has ruffled civic feathers in certain communities. The company sells customized versions of the game for specific cities; the Brooklyn one, for instance, includes properties such as McCarren Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Jewish Children’s Museum, and Coney Island. However: “The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) cited an email which it alleged Top Trumps had sent to a shop in Palm Springs, California, setting out three-year terms for its ‘approved packages’ to secure a spot. The ‘Bronze’ costs $21,000 for a square on the board. The ‘Silver’ is $36,000 and includes a Community Chest Card promoting the company,” reported The Times of London. “The most expensive, the publication adds, is the $60,000 package over three years, which reportedly gets a business the ‘Gold’ package: a square, a Community Chest card, plus ‘an image on the centre board montage’ and ‘on the box lid montage’.”
Up in Massachusetts, this highest-bidder approach has already left people disgruntled. “Anger spilled over at the recent Worcester Monopoly launch ceremony, after locations such as the popular Ralph’s Tavern missed out on a place, despite intense lobbying,” reported The Times. “Patrons cheered as the pub’s owner, Scot Bove, shoved entire Monopoly games into a woodchipper at a ‘Monopoly Demolition Day’. Also absent were several colleges, Worcester’s well-known seltzer maker and its iconic lunch-car diners, the WSJ noted.” Bove called Monopoly’s Worcester edition “a pay-to-play situation.”
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail