Auntie Doris’s Great Works of Art #14 “The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba” by Claude Lorraine Kelly – 1648

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When I was packing my case to go away with my Raymond he always used to get impatient and say something like “Come on lass, we’re off for a couple of nights in Withernsea, it’s not  the embarkation of the Queen of ruddy Sheba!”

Obviously, I knew that, I wasn’t going to travel for days across the Red Sea to Jerusalem to pay tribute to and probably have carnal relations with King Solomon, I was going to be driven down the B1362 for about three quarters of an hour to maybe see a singer in the clubhouse, and listen to my Raymond’s snores echoing around the caravan all night.

But still, a woman has to pack enough stuff to last her the weekend, doesn’t she.

Of course, the queen of Sheba had a bit more packing than most. She was the ruddy queen for heaven’s sake, you couldn’t expect her to make one pair of tights last all weekend, and not be able to swap her shoes for a comfy pair of slippers at the end of the day. The queen of Sheba would have had a selection of slippers to choose from, and most of them would probably have had pompoms on them.

Besides, I wasn’t just packing for myself, I needed to take his ruddy slippers an’all, otherwise, he would have had a face on all weekend, and I couldn’t be doing with putting up with him with one of his faces on. And we would both need our pac-a-macs in case it rained, and I would need my rain mate to protect my hair, and if it rained heavily we would both need wellington boots. There was a lot to think about. Even if it didn’t rain. It might have. You never know.

And the Queen of Sheba wasn’t just packing for one either. She had her retinue to think about. Retinues don’t live on fresh air you know. They have to be fed and watered and have a change of clothes every now and then, or they start to stink. King Solomon would not have been impressed by a woman with a stinky retinue. Those sorts of people never are.

And besides all that she had to pack some presents for King Solomon, she decided on gold, unguent oils, spices and precious stones. Apparently she took plenty of them an’all, which is why Lorraine painted them loading a treasure chest into one of the boats which is already full of parcels of stuff, and there are a fair few golden pots on the quayside as well. We never had any treasure chests or golden pots at Withernsea. But I did try and brighten the place up a bit with a pot dog and a plaster of Paris ornament of the lighthouse.

Of course, when she arrived in Jerusalem, the famous composer Handel had written a special piece of music to welcome her, so there was a bit of a fuss at that end as well. I was lucky if my Raymond put the ruddy kettle on when we arrived at that ruddy caravan. So I don’t know how he could have compared me to the Queen of Sheba. He was no ruddy King Solomon. But neither of us really liked a fuss. So I suppose he was alright for me.

Auntie Doris’s Great Works of Art: #13 – “Whistler’s Mother” by James McNeill Whistler – 1871

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Poor old Whistler. He wasn’t very successful with the  women. There were many reasons for this. For a start he lived with his mother, and she would do anything within her power to prevent him getting cosy with any of the lasses he ever met. Then he had wooden false teeth, because plastic ones hadn’t been invented in those days. Apparently, they didn’t look too bad, but they made him whistle whenever he said anything beginning with ‘S’ So asking Sally or Susan to go for a stroll with him on Sunday never went down too well. And of course, he was more interested in messing about with his paint box than spending time with the opposite sex anyway. Ruddy men and their hobbies.

So while Gus Klimt, Charlie Soulacroix , Fred Leighton, Alf Stevens and the rest of the boys were painting lasses laid out like dogs dinners with all their charms on show, Jimmy Whistler was painting his mother, with her serious face on  and all wrapped up in a long black dress,.

It was her idea to get him to do the painting. “What’s the use of having an artist for a son if you don’t get him to immortalise you in oils?” she said to her friends from the gin palace. She knew exactly how she wanted it done an’all. “I don’t want you mucking it up and making me look ridiculous like you did that Joanna Hifferman, with her hear all over the place, standing on a dead bear. No wonder she packed you in for Gustave Courbert! I shall sit down while you do me, thank you very much, and put my feet on a stool. And you can do me from the side, so I don’t look bog eyed. You always paint people bog eyed when you do them from the front.”

“And another thing… I don’t want you doing all that ruddy whistling while you are painting, either! I want you concentrating on what you are doing!”

Any road.  Even though he said it was a pain in the rear end listening to her going on at him whilst he was doing the painting. Jimmy was happy that the end result brought him recognition in the art world. In fact it was about the only painting he did that anyone outside the art world can remember, and because of it, his ruddy mother is more well known than him.

In fact Jimmy had it tough, because not only was his mother more famous than he was, but also his brother, Willy, was the president of the British Laryngological, Rhinological and Otological Association, and did surgery on peoples ears, noses and throats. “I will admit” he used to say, “that my profession is not brain surgery, but it takes a bit more brains painting ruddy pictures does.”

Perhaps Jimmy had the last laugh though, because he outlived both his mother and his brother. After his mother died he even got himself a proper girlfriend Beatrix Godwin, another painter who was over twenty years younger than him. He married her in 1888, but their relationship turned sour after he did a painting of here that made her look bog eyed.