Today I’m redecorating the ballroom in the spirit of the London Summer Olympics! At first I considered just posting a lot of photos of the US men’s diving and water polo teams, but I figured Lady B would wonder how I came to be in possession of all those “portraits”. So I’m going rather more traditional instead.
We all know Brits of the 18th and 19th centuries were simply wild about collecting antiquities. Since their empire stretched far and wide, they had plenty of opportunities to collect (Read: “abscond with”) fabulous works of art from ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt. Recall Miranda’s delightfully provocative discussion of the Elgin Marbles. We ladies of The Ballroom aren’t above capitalizing on England’s obsession with antiquities in our novels. In the Arms of a Marquess features a gallery full of naked marbles that makes Tavy remarkably agitated. And of course Sarah’s Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord is all about ancient sculptures. In one scene Isabel is even stood against a statue of a goddess and… ahem… worshipped.
A pair of huge men enters the ballroom pulling a wheeled dolly upon which is strapped a bronze statue.
Oh, terrific, gentlemen! You can place that one right over there. I point to an empty nook along one wall that looks like it needs filling. (No potted plant!) It’s early yet and there are few guests in the ballroom, so the men head straight across.
Miss Ashe, I will eat my hat if those persons are in fact gentlemen.
I swing around to greet our hostess, Lady B. She’s in all her Monday ball splendor: peacock colored gloves, draping violet lace, and a rather fabulous turban.
“They aren’t!” I reply cheerily, because I’m redecorating and when I redecorate or clean or organize or arrange or write love scenes I’m always cheerful. “They’re dock workers. I borrowed them from How To Be a Proper Lady. And anyway I call everybody a gentleman because, well, after writing a hero like Jin, one never really knows, does one? Anyway, aren’t these men ideal for my project today?”
It’s a rhetorical question and Lady B — Queen of Rhetorical Questions — recognizes that. She surveys the next group of lumpers who are carrying into the ballroom a massive piece of carved white marble.
“This one is gorgeous! Lady B, just look at all the expression the artist was able to convey even in the fragment that we have remaining.”
And what a fragment it is indeed.
Secretly I knew she’d love this.
“Indeed! It’s called Torso of a Kneeling Athlete, and it’s from around 300 BC.”
Excellent legs. Yet I have yet to be informed as to the reason for this invasion of nudity into my house, Miss Ashe.
The dock workers pass by with another piece. I cross my arms and survey the landscape. It’s looking very good in here, downright locker-room-esque.
“Well, you see, my lady, I’ve been appreciating athletes lately, especially the sorts that the ancient Greeks held in such high esteem. So I decided to spruce up the ballroom today with a bit of antiquity. And I do love ancient art, you know.”
You authoresses and your pet projects.
“Oh, look at that one. It’s a cista handle. Cistae were containers to hold precious objects. Doesn’t he look incredibly uncomfortable?”
And impressively flexible.
“True. But lest the Greeks be accused of favoring the male form (which actually they did, but who’s in the mood to blame these guys, huh?), here’s a cista in the shape of a woman.”
Lord Montague: “Very nice.”
Hello, Monty. Nice of you to show up today. How’s the head wound?
Monty: Better since you tended it with your angelic hands.
Nephew, your flatteries will not work on my authoresses.
Monty: (surveying the ballroom) I see I have- er- stiff competition.He casts me a wink and a naughty smile. Or at least it looks like a smile. His lip is still a little puffy from the row he got into last week, and the black and yellow discoloration around his eye makes him look like a half-baked raccoon. But we all know there’s a handsome cad underneath all those bruises and cuts nobly won in defense of the ladies. Lady B wouldn’t have him in the ballroom otherwise. And I particularly know this because I’ve seen his—
Miss Ashe, for once you have outdone yourself.
My mouth drops open. “For once?” But now I’ve seen what our hostess and her nephew and everybody else in the ballroom is staring at. The piece de resistance of my Olympics-inspired redecoration: the famous Roman marble copy of the Greek bronze discus thrower.
Well done, indeed, Miss Ashe.
Lady B is studying the discus thrower closely. I don’t think I’ll mention to her that Miranda came up with this one for my show. For now I’ll just bask in the rare gold medal glow of a mission accomplished
Have the Olympics inspired you to any special projects or extraordinary feats of athleticism? Are you watching them faithfully? What’s your favorite event? And if you could take any Olympic summer sport that wasn’t already around in the Regency era and make it all the rage with noblemen, what would it be?