By Carl Djerassi
(A play in 27 scenes)
time ago, Professors Alfred Vendl and Bernhard Pichler of the University for
Applied Arts in
For decades, I, a chemist-turned-playwright, have also been a serious art collector, who has been well aware of the disturbing fetishization of many art objects. But instead of addressing primarily the change in value as a well known art object is reattributed--a situation quite different when a work, say a presumed Vermeer painting, is found to be forged by Van Meegeren--I decided to focus on what effect such reattribution might have on the behavior of the principals involved in the dispute.
This dramatic lode has been mined before. Alan Bennett’s play and subsequent BBC TV film, “A Question of Attribution,” uses the question of a Titian painting’s authenticity to depict the relation between art historian (Sir Anthony Blunt) and owner (Queen Elizabeth II) as well as Blunt’s behavior as a notorious Communist spy. And Simon Gray’s more recent “The Old Masters”-though ostensibly covering the dispute whether a certain painting was created by Titian rather than Giorgione-really delves into the ethical and psychological conflict between art historian (Bernard Berenson) and art dealer (Lord Duveen). In other words, the principals and the art in those plays have a historical basis, which however has been altered to make a dramatic point.
And what is that point in my “Phallacy”? Here I concern myself with a conflict much closer to my professional competence: the quirks and idiosyncrasies of art historian and scientist, when they examine the age of an art object from their grossly different perspectives: aesthetic and art historical connoisseurship versus cold material analysis. In addition, I also wanted to explore the ramifications of a well known character fault that transcends the gulf been art scholar and scientist: falling in love with a favorite hypothesis and defending it against all comers and new evidence.
Like other playwrights working with factual material, I have modified, manipulated, disguised or even deliberately misused many historical nuggets by claiming the authorial freedom that any playwright rightly exercises. Thus I request that any resemblance to the actual principals associated with the ongoing saga of the putative Roman sculpture in the Antiquities collection of a famous European museum be largely ascribed to coincidence and that in no respect have I attempted to damage the reputation of a living scholar. And if the explanation in my play of what has happened to that original sculpture should in the future prove to be correct, it is not a reflection of my art historical acumen but purely a playwright’s dumb luck.
from my interest as a scientist and art collector, there is a deeply personal
reason why I chose this theme for my newest play. Born in
DR. REGINA LEITNER-OPFERMANN, middle aged art historian and director of the Department of Antiquities in an important Austrian museum.
EMMA FINGER, assistant curator of the
DR. REX STOLZFUSS, middle aged Professor of Chemistry and head of the
art conservation department of an unnamed technical institution in
DR. OTTO ELLENBOGEN, late twenties or early thirties, recent Ph.D. and assistant to Prof. Stolzfuss.
GERALDO LOPEZ, Spaniard of undetermined occupation (same actor as Otto Ellenbogen, but speaking with Spanish accent).
DON JUAN OF AUSTRIA (1547 - 1578), illegitimate son of Emperor Charles V and Hero of the Battle of Lepanto (25 years old). (May be played by same actor as Otto Ellenbogen)
BARBARA BLOMBERG, Don Juan’s mother (43 years old). (May be played by same actor as Dr. Regina Leitner-Opfermann)
VOICE OF HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT (sitting in back row of the theatre).
The recent past in
Scene 1. Present time. REGINA Leitner-Opfermann, director of the Antiquities Department of the Museum is evidently concluding a lecture to a group of high school students.
REGINA (With kind and animated voice in middle of a lecture): I’m sure your chemistry teacher has told you that bronze is a metal alloy made by melting copper and tin in varying proportions… that it melts readily… is easily molded… does not rust… is durable… and takes a fine smooth finish. You may even have been told about the additional presence of trace metals, but frankly (flashes a slight conspiratorial smile) who cares? It’s all a bit dull if you don’t learn to what spectacularly beautiful use this material can be put. That you will hardly learn in chemistry. So now… please, put away your pens and pencils and turn off your cell phones, pagers, blackberries, watches, in fact all electronic devices and use your eyes, your hearts, your souls.... to absorb the beauty of this, the most important piece of our antiquities galleries: a bronze Roman sculpture from the second century, discovered right here in Austria.
Bronze casting was practiced at least
6,000 years ago in Anatolia and subsequently in
(Points to image of sculpture on the screen).
During the two centuries before and
after the first Roman emperor Augustus came to power, many sculptors settled in
But now comes the tragedy: the acute
shortage of metal needed for weaponry during the Middle Ages led to the melting
down of the majority of Greek bronze statues. The ones you can see in museums
are mostly Roman survivors that had been lost at sea and retrieved by chance
centuries later… or that had been buried. This young man (points to image
behind her) is one of the most beautiful and best preserved roman bronzes ever
recovered. He was found 500 years ago… not in
TEENAGE VOICE (from audience): Frau Director. A question.
TEENAGE VOICE (from audience): If this sculpture is just a copy of a Greek original—
VOICE (Same teenager from audience): But how can you tell whether it is a Roman original?
VOICE (Same teenager from audience): But a Roman copy of a Greek original is not contemporary—
(Steps off podium. EMMA intercepts her.)
EMMA Frau Director Leitner—
REGINA Leitner- Opfermann.
EMMA I’m Emma Finger… Renaissance department…. We’ve met a few times before—
EMMA Yes. I just wanted to introduce myself… since we’ll be working together.
EMMA You haven’t read the report?
EMMA Professor Stolzfuss—
EMMA I’m sorry, I thought the Director told you about the situation.
REX You don’t have much use for chemistry, do you?
REX My son told me about your lecture.
REX According to him, you thought trace metals in bronze were a bit of a bore.
REX It registered with my son.
REX That would be him.
REX No, no…
REX I told him about our work on your sculpture, and he—
REX I told him about the results of our work.
REX It’s not a state secret. Your museum director had asked me to take a look at your sculpture—
REX Yes. We developed some new chemical methods. We got some top-notch new equipment. There’s nothing wrong with the museum commissioning a new approach to confirm the putative age of a sculpture.
REX It’s not an insult. More often than not, age is considered putative until it’s confirmed… even the age of a person. Take my son. In another couple of years, he’ll have to produce a driver’s license in order to buy a drink.
REX (Enjoying the direction of the conversation): Just a parking permit. Doubts have been expressed whether it truly belongs in the Antiquities galleries.
REX By your museum bookshop.
REX I always read evidence before questioning it.
REX It is not meant personally. The business of a scientist is to question all evidence and then to confirm or refute it through independent means.
REX Eventually. But I started at the end.
REX The index.
REX Yes, the index. And looked for the words “trace analysis” and “nickel.” Now of course, their absence is clearer since according to my son you find them dull.
REX Because Roman bronze has a very low Nickel content.
REX I wouldn’t be if I were you.
REX Your sculpture contains a lot of nickel. Rather typical of Renaissance bronze. (Beat).
REX The nickel content of the sculpture is typical of Renaissance—
REX Of course.
REX But… he was the one who requested we examine your statue. Anyway, what matters here is the nickel content.
REX I didn’t say without exception—
REX I’m saying it’s extremely unlikely. And that’s why I’m here. As a courtesy call. To tell you… before informing anyone else… what additional chemical tests we carried out to prove our assumption-
REX Well, no, because we carried out further tests—
REX Well… hogwash, no… I wouldn’t say that, not exactly hogwash—
REX (Outraged) Crap?
REX Excuse me?
REX Unpredictability is what science is all about…
REX For this discussion, the beauty of the sculpture is not important. Even the sculpture is not important—
REX That’s all.
REX Define Art.
REX (Derisive) Good God!
REX Better! But how necessary is that?
EMMA She was still steaming when she told me about it.
OTTO She really described him as an overzealous mouse?
EMMA What are you getting so worked up about?
OTTO: She meant all chemists, which includes me. Anyway, if you’re going to side with your boss, what are you doing hanging out with the enemy?
EMMA She’s not my boss. I am a curator in the Renaissance department. I was lent to her by the big boss… the museum director… to help her get out of this mess. Because a mess in the Antiquities department is a mess for the museum… especially when dealing with such an important work. Besides, I’m not hanging out with you… I’ve barely started hanging out.
OTTO It must be chemistry.
EMMA (Teasing) The authority speaking.
OTTO You know… I think I’m in love with you.
EMMA Nice change of topic. You never told me that before.
OTTO Not in so many words.
EMMA But you’re quoting.
OTTO What do you mean?
EMMA It’s a quote… it’s been said millions of times.
OTTO But that’s true of everything said between lovers.
EMMA Listen. There’s still a way to go on that lover front.
OTTO Well… what would you say if you loved someone?
EMMA You want to hear it now?
OTTO: Of course.
EMMA (Reflective) If I really loved him? (Pause). I might say: “Is there a way to keep my soul from touching yours?”
OTTO (Startled and pleased) Wow! Did you just think of that?
EMMA (Softer) “But everything that touches me and you/draws us together, making one from two,/as one bow gives two strings a single tongue.“
OTTO My God!
EMMA “Upon what instrument are we two spanned? And what musician holds us in his hand?”
OTTO You couldn’t have thought of that just now.
EMMA: I didn’t… I remembered it. Because I’m wondering whether one single voice can be teased out of two such different strings as yours and mine?
OTTO Who wrote that?
EMMA Rainer Maria Rilke.
OTTO So you were quoting as well.
EMMA Yes… but that wasn’t said millions of times before.
OTTO Frau Opfermann has turned you against me.
EMMA She doesn’t know about you. (Beat). And her name is Leitner-Opfermann. Opfermann was the name of her former husband.
OTTO (Dismissive and mocking) “Leitner-Opfermann!” I can’t stand those hyphenated names. They reek of compromise.
EMMA She won’t drop it because she made the mistake of
publishing her book under that name. A book whose basic premise your hapless
professor is now questioning. She expects to be called Frau Director
Leitner-Opfermann. How long have you been in
OTTO Long enough.
EMMA Clearly not long enough to understand that titles still count for something here.
OTTO Not with everyone. I call my boss “Rex.”
EMMA Not “Professor?”
OTTO: I’d barely started working in his lab when one day he said, “Just call me Rex.” A king doesn’t need another title.
EMMA I’d hate to think what would happen if I called her by her first name.
REX We’re talking about bronze…not clay.
REX I see.
REX I don’t have to put up with this.
REX Is this relevant?
REX (Prickly) What kind of a chemist? Analytical? Organic? Physical? (Beat). Or was it a cook that he mistook for a chemist?
REX What’s his name?
REX Don’t tell me… Wilhelm Ostwald.
REX And what did Klee say to Ostwald?
REX I’m trying to be collegial—
REX I wanted to explain how we arrived at our conclusion—
REX (Sarcastic) Oh pardon me! I forgot. You have no use for trace metal analysis, but you’re an expert in thermoluminescence… and scanning electron microscopy. In their scope and limitations—
REX I’ve had it! You’re impossible! Here… (hands over the report he wrote). Read it.
REX In that case… wait till it’s published! And the shit hits the fan!
Scene 5. Emma’s office. Continuation of Scene 3.
OTTO So…the Frau Director knows nothing about us?
EMMA There’s nothing to know.
EMMA (Beat, then) No. Will you tell Rex?
EMMA Good. And what about us two? Is continued shoptalk wise?
OTTO Why not?
EMMA It might be smarter if we didn’t. That argument isn’t over… it’s just begun.
OTTO What do you mean not over?
EMMA I know what’s at stake. I work here… and a museum is not a lab.
OTTO (Touchily) Meaning?
EMMA At the end of the day, when you leave your lab, you leave it and your experiment stays behind. When I leave the museum, the work goes with me…
OTTO So my work is just a job, while yours is a life?
EMMA (Laughs) I wouldn’t have put it quite so bluntly. But I deal with images.
OTTO You can’t slide a knife between art and science!
EMMA Of course you can. (Beat). Art historians do it all the time.
OTTO Believe me, she’s going to feel so sick that she started this.
EMMA Not Regina Leitner-Opferman. She has a cast iron stomach.
OTTO Maybe. But chemists know their poisons. And Rex is one of the best in the business.
Scene 6. A few hours later as in Scenes 2 & 4;
EMMA He thought my Renaissance background would be useful. (Beat) He would like to salvage the situation.
EMMA You know, I do want to help. But if I’m just in your way—
(Long pause with Emma starting to get uncomfortable)
(Notices Emma’s surprise)
I mean truly in love. Convinced that there’s nobody like that… and never will be?
EMMA (Embarrassed, searches for words) Maybe not quite like that.
Suddenly changes demeanor and voice, now low, almost pleading.
I’ve lived with that young man for years. But instead of taking him for granted… or even worse, getting bored with him… he’s turned into an ever-increasing passion. When I thought that there wasn’t a millimetre of his body I had not explored… suddenly… sometimes in the middle of the night… a missing detail would hit me. Do you know what sort of details?
EMMA (Confused and embarrassed) No.
EMMA (Embarrassed) I don’t remember… probably not.
EMMA (Startled) Oh… I don’t know… 1.7 or 1.8 meters.
EMMA I don’t know.
EMMA (Taken aback) I have no idea.
EMMA (Deeply embarrassed) Please don’t!
EMMA (Totally embarrassed) May I leave?
EMMA: I said, may I leave?
EMMA Not entirely.
But there is a problem if one depends on such hunches.
EMMA (increasingly uncomfortable): They don’t always work.
Scene 7. Later that day. Rex’s office.
REX Do you know what that woman said? What she dared
say to me? (Tries to mimic
OTTO She was quoting Paul Klee.
REX (Astonished) How on earth did you know that?
OTTO (Realizing he should not have volunteered that information) Oh… from some art… friend.
REX We’re going to rewrite our paper.
OTTO But there’s no need. The point has been made. The energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis showing a nickel content much too high for a Roman bronze. The thermoluminescence data. The computer tomography—
REX Forget about our fancy science! I was prepared to use it… then… when I was still thinking of professional collegiality. When I was prepared to publish something jointly with her that would avoid a public embarrassment. But after that barrage of insults, collegiality is the last thing I’m thinking of. This is war! (Short pause). I’m not saying we eliminate the scientific evidence… just underplay it. I want every reader of that paper to realize that sophisticated science wasn’t needed to demonstrate how wrong she was. Simple horse-sense… uncontaminated by all that art historian crap. It’s bad enough that she’s mocking professional scientists, but she’s only an art historian.
OTTO You’re not actually going to say that are you?
REX I’d love to… but we’d never get it into print. No. We’ll write it so that every reader still recognizes it for what it really is. We’ll start with the hole.
REX I thought you’d be pleased. You’re the one who first stuck his nose into it. I was so fixated on analyzing the bronze, I didn’t even pay attention to the physical flaw. What made you open it in the first place?
OTTO Once I opened it, I stuck an endoscope in to check the armature and anything else I might…
REX Of course. But we’ll point out that an endoscope wasn’t even needed to see their error. Roman casts were never more than five millimeters thick. This was twenty! One could see that practically with the naked eye once the hole was unplugged. Renaissance casts were that thick because the sculptors got paid by weight. Even an art historian should have noticed… but they hardly ever look inside. It’s always on the surface. (Mocking tone): “sensitivity of visual perception”… “critical connoisseurship”… But it’s all based on external observation. They’re blinded by the self-assurance of their aesthetic infallibility.
(Rex sees Otto still writing.)
Don’t put that in the report… that’s just between you and me. No, start with the hole. Show that once it was opened, calipers would have sufficed to determine the thickness.
OTTO What about all the work I did, especially the thermoluminescence? That was unambiguous evidence. Are we ignoring all that?
REX No buts.
OTTO: Okay… okay.
REX Good. Now get on with it.
OTTO You don’t need collaborators… you need slaves.
REX You know what she called me? That arrogant, vain, supercilious, pretentious…
OTTO: You were going to tell me what she called you!
REX: “Cocksure.” She… who never mentioned his dick in all her 345 pages. There’s no penis in her index! And she calls me “cocksure”!
Scene 8. The
(Video zooms to toes)
… for instance… those perfect… almost delectable toes. And then… the feet fast… the shins and calves well favored; knee ever so gently flexed; thighs so shapely yet solid; and then the proud loins…
(Just before reaching the penis, the video image turns to show buttocks).
And the buttocks with their bivalve roundness… (As zoomed video image travels upward from navel): Navel discreet; young chest manly and rippling … adorned by nipples perceptive; throat unflawed; chin almost unreal; lower lip… so tempting. (Beat). The nose…aquiline and Roman; (close-up image of the face appears) and the eyes… though a sculpture’s dead eyes… limpidly seductive and simultaneously blazing. And now… those beguiling curls… those tantalizing ringlets. (close-up of the hair fades up) Let us start over here. (Points with laser pointer). Five of them twirling to the left… then eight coiling to the right… and now thirteen! In other words… the famous Fibonacci sequence. (return the to full image of the sculpture) I shall not ask the trite question whether this unknown sculptor genius was also a mathematician…
Scene 9. Immediately
EMMA Be grateful… it wasn’t easy to smuggle you in. At least, you’ve now heard her at her best.
OTTO (Derisive) “Delectable toes!”
EMMA Why not? Not so long ago, you said something like that about mine.
OTTO I was talking about flesh… not bronze. “Buttocks with their bivalve roundness!” She couldn’t have thought of that on the spur of the moment.
EMMA She was quoting. She’s good at it.
OTTO And even better at not citing the source.
EMMA The black and white scientist! Always insisting on true or false… the bon mot cited or not cited. How about just discreetly borrowed?
OTTO But so precious.
EMMA At times, precious discourse in museums does work. This was a discourse to our potential sponsors. And a rather effective one at that.
OTTO And that stuff about the Fibonacci sequence?
EMMA Oh, that. That’s her favorite line. She always uses it.
OTTO All that simulated aesthetic bliss. I thought she was going to have an orgasm.
EMMA You mean you missed it? She had at least two.
OTTO Probably faked ones.
EMMA: What do you men know about faked orgasms?
(This stings him a little.)
OTTO As a matter of fact, she missed something.
OTTO The penis.
EMMA What about it?
EMMA He’s young.
OTTO He’s at least twenty. Cocks stop growing at seventeen.
EMMA (Sarcastic) We’re dealing with aesthetics here…
OTTO Jesus! You sound like her!
EMMA: … with conceptual coherence…
OTTO I thought we shared an interest in the study of the penis.
EMMA But where? In art, literature, anthropology, medicine?
OTTO: How about in bed?
EMMA Otto. This is a museum…
OTTO What‘s your Regina’s hang-up? Considering the fact that she covered every millimeter of that precious body… yet ignored one of the most important appendages.
EMMA Sometimes… not mentioning a feature emphasizes its importance.
EMMA There are times… especially in art… when the penis is only a feature. In most classical Greek art, nude males have small penises. On purpose… as a sign of an aristocratic male. The Greeks didn’t make an issue out of size… on the contrary, the point was daintiness.
OTTO You must be kidding.
EMMA Seeing the small flaccid phallus in the openly displayed male nude and then contrasting it with an engorged jutting protuberance—
OTTO (Pretends outrage) Protuberance?
EMMA The tiny one in public… the oversized erect one in private. Enjoying the best of both possible worlds: conventional modesty and yet—
OTTO (Disdainful) Very small and then oversized? That’s an anatomical contradiction!
EMMA We are dealing with convention in Greek art and society… not anatomy.
OTTO That’s pretty subtle.
EMMA Subtlety may be one of the key differences between science and art.
OTTO For Christ’s sake—
EMMA All right… take Christ. Take Christ’s penis.
OTTO (Taken aback) Blasphemous.
EMMA Hardly. Do you know what art historians have to say about Christ’s sexuality?
OTTO I didn’t know this was a subject of discussion among your clique.
EMMA: Do you know that in the hundreds… no, thousands... of Renaissance pictures of the Madonna and Child, there is hardly one that doesn’t show the penis of the Christ child? Look.
(Mantegna’s painting, preferably with close-up focus on infant Jesus and several other examples appear)
OTTO: Your point being!
EMMA: Look! They even have him play with his penis.
(Sodoma painting and several others)
OTTO (Momentarily taken aback): Well… infants are known to do that.
EMMA: Of course they do… even though some adults are shocked. But what about his grandmother fondling his penis?
OTTO: His Grandmother?
EMMA: St. Anne. But now take the images of the adult Jesus from that period. In most paintings, he’s virtually naked, but invariably some drape or fold covers his loins. But as always, there are the odd exceptions.
OTTO (Testily): Meaning?
EMMA (Goading him): The occasional erection.
(1520-1525 images of van Heemskerck’s and Ludwig Krug’s engraving of “Man of Sorrows”)
OTTO (Shocked) You’re joking!
EMMA Relax! It’s covered… though not too subtly. So what’s the artist’s point?
(Images fade out)
OTTO To show that Jesus was a man.
EMMA (Ironic) Brilliant! But that has already been established in all the nude baby Jesuses and their penises. Now… aside from that signifier—
OTTO (Dismissive) Oh, God! No, not signifier!
EMMA That’s exactly what the penis is, a signifier. But since it is usually associated with reproduction—
OTTO Not pleasure?
EMMA And pleasure. But neither reproduction nor physical pleasure had anything to do with Jesus, so his groin is never openly displayed.
(EMMA Reaches over and unzips his fly, pulling his shirt tail out).
OTTO (Grabs her hand) What are you doing? Someone might come in!
EMMA Now, do you see? There are times and places when the penis is neither displayed nor discussed. Now, go away, I’ve got work to do.
OTTO How about lunch?
(He zips his fly back up)
EMMA Out before the Frau Director catches you. (She bundles him out of the office)
Scene 10. Later
EMMA You were very persuasive.
EMMA (Taken aback) Just an acquaintance.
EMMA (Now desperate to change the subject) Dull stuff. (Beat). I noticed you skipped the usual introduction.
The oldest Roman sculpture discovered north of
EMMA And your reply?
Scene 11 Luxemburg,
1576 during Don Juan of
FIRST DON JUAN/BARBARA BLOMBERG INTERMEZZO A room in Don Juan’s residence. Blomberg, waits as Don Juan enters.
DON JUAN: Madam! What favor did you come to ask? (Louder when she does not reply). I said: what favor? (Beat). Madam! Is your hearing impaired? (She shakes her head.) Then speak. (Beat) I cannot know what troubles you unless you tell me. (Beat) Your name then? (Beat) Come, come, there’s no need to be afraid! Out with it. (Beat) Why won’t you speak? (Beat) Do we know each other? (She nods) Then take off your veil. (Louder). Take it off! I have witnessed many terrible things in battles. Faces of men mutilated beyond recognition. If you are scarred or ugly, fear no shame in front of me. (Beat) Madam! You try my patience!
Slowly, she lifts her veil.
DON JUAN (Taken aback): But you have no reason to hide your face… there’s barely a blemish. We have met before… somewhere.
BLOMBERG: Sire, I’m your mother.
Scene 12 The next day. Rex’s office and Regina’s office, split scene.
REX What’s your hypothesis?
OTTO About what?
REX What’s she up to? I told the Museum Director that I was working on the formal report for him and he told me to take my time. I wonder whether he’s trying to protect her.
OTTO Why ask me?
REX (Laughs) I always like to hear my younger colleague’s opinions.
OTTO Only to then demolish them.
REX Correction! Try to demolish them. That’s what science is all about… a lesson that Frau Director Dr. Leitner-Opfermann does not seem to have learned. To her, counterarguments are just personal affronts. Well? Let’s hear your hypothesis.
OTTO (Clearly uncomfortable) I wouldn’t want to guess.
REX I’m not out to screw things up for the Museum.
OTTO But there’s nothing to screw up! It’s either a Roman cast or it’s not. Like pregnancy. The woman is pregnant… or she’s not.
REX But who’s the daddy? (Pause) Has she ever met you?
REX Seen you?
OTTO I don’t know.
REX: What do you mean you don’t know?
OTTO (Uncomfortable) Well… I went to one of her lectures.
REX Oh? How small was the audience?
OTTO The room was overflowing.
OTTO She’s a pretty flamboyant lecturer.
REX All icing, no cake?
OTTO No, quite a bit of cake.
REX Well… if the place was full she wouldn’t have noticed you. (Beat). How about doing some sniffing around a bit... discreetly, of course.
REX Have you read her book?
REX: You should. It’s not bad… in spite of some myopic arty-fartiness. She does have a lot at stake… I just wonder what she’s going to do. (Beat). Maybe I’ll call her to see whether she has calmed down. If she has, I’ll give her another chance.
OTTO (Surprised) Do you really think that is a good idea?
(OTTO excuses himself and calls EMMA on his cell phone. EMMA’s cell phone rings)
EMMA (Embarrassed) I’m terribly sorry. I thought it was off. It won’t happen again. One second. (Turns away, whispering into phone). Mm hmm.
OTTO It’s me.
EMMA (Whispers while shaking her head) Uh-huh.
OTTO Are you in her office?
OTTO Make some excuse.
OTTO Rex is calling her.
OTTO One sec.
REX Take your time. (Lifts desk phone and dials).
EMMA (To Otto) Gotta go.
OTTO Wait! You’ve got to warn her!
OTTO Are you there? Hello?
REX Stolzfuss speaking.
REGINA Yes. (Turns away from Emma).
EMMA (Turns away from Regina) Quick then.
REX I would like to give you one more chance.
OTTO There’s one more possibility.
EMMA For what?
REX A ceasefire.
EMMA He’ll apologize?
REX I should apologize? I?
EMMA Why not?
OTTO We have nothing to apologize for.
REX I haven’t even started and you’re asking me to apologize?
EMMA Is that all you can say?
REX And I’m talking about its contents.
OTTO I’m working for him.
REX: (Slams down the phone) What a bitch!
EMMA (Quick) I’ve got to go. (Does so).
OTTO What! What? Hello? (Realizes she hung up)
EMMA (Quietly) I can guess.
EMMA So do I.
EMMA Otto Ellenbogen.
EMMA (Disingenuously) What do I know about chemists?
EMMA And if I do find something?
EMMA (Smiling) No hay problema.
Scene 13 SECOND DON JUAN/BARBARA BLOMBERG INTERMEZZO picking up on the first intermezzo
BLOMBERG The King, your brother, made me promise never to see you again.
DON JUAN And what have you to do with the King, my brother? He is not your son.
BLOMBERG You share the same father.
DON JUAN Father? Yes.
BLOMBERG The Emperor recognized you as his son…
DON JUAN When I was 12. If not for my father’s generosity… the Court would never have accepted me.
BLOMBERG But you are his son.
DON JUAN His bastard.
BLOMBERG A hero.
They call me the Imperial Bastard… not to my face, of course… and think I’m not
privy to their thoughts… or to my brother’s. (With increasing bitterness).
His Majesty, Philip II, husband of Queen Mary of
You my son… not yet 24 and the hero of the Battle of Lepanto. I beg you, Sire, indulge me. I may never see
you again. (Beat). You were born on the 24th day of February
in the year 1547, also the day of your father’s birth. (Beat). Nine
months before, His Imperial Majesty, Charles V, came to
DON JUAN (Curious) Why you?
BLOMBERG They say I was beautiful… then.
DON JUAN (Kinder) Your appearance still pleases the eye.
BLOMBERG Your Highness flatters me. My years and travails have taken their toll. (Beat). But that night, I was conducted… in strictest privacy… to the Emperor. His Majesty was 46 and long widowed. He seemed lonely… and desired solace from me. I was but 18… and still unacquainted with the ways of men. We spent the night together. I never saw his Majesty again.
Scene 14 REX’s office. Continuation of Scene 12.
OTTO That was quick.
REX I don’t know why I bothered.
OTTO I didn’t think that was such a good idea giving her a call.
REX (Defensively) To give her one more chance to see whether we could arrive at a joint statement that would avoid embarrassing her in pubic? I thought it was damn generous of me.
OTTO How could you avoid embarrassing her? Any concession would be an embarrassment. She’s a true believer.
REX What’s belief other than a source of energy? In her case, the source is a battery that is about to go flat.
OTTO Who knows? She may well try to recharge it.
EMMA So far so good. But what’s your hypothesis?
EMMA And you just thought of all this… after the chemists questioned the age of our bronze?
EMMA But I’ve read your book… from beginning to end. Even the dedication: “To Ignaz Opfermann, supporter and life companion.”
EMMA There’s no mention of the Habsburgs.
EMMA At least no Spanish ones.
EMMA Why now… but not then?
EMMA So who ended up with the Roman original?
EMMA Any hints?
Scene 16 THIRD DON JUAN/BARBARA BLOMBERG INTERMEZZO)
DON JUAN You never saw my father again?
DON JUAN But you spoke?
BLOMBERG Yes… that night.
DON JUAN What did my father say?
BLOMBERG I do not know. I only knew German then. His Majesty spoke in Castilian. But he was kind. (Long pause). Yet… Nine months later… when I bore a son… I was persuaded by the Emperor’s emissary to wed one of his officers. A bribe.
DON JUAN Madam! You must choose your words more prudently.
BLOMBERG I was favoured with a generous payment once I was married to that officer. Yet, not yet four years old, my son was removed. It was the last time I saw you, Sire… until today.
DON JUAN (Reminisces) When I was seven, the Emperor’s confidante, Don Luis Quijada and his wife, Donna Magdalena took me into their home where I was tutored in Greek, Latin and French…not German. But also in matters of the Court.
BLOMBERG I was never told.
DON JUAN Ever since I have called Donna Magdalena “mother”… (Pause) until today.
BLOMBERG My son… When did you first encounter your father?
After his abdication. But then, I did not know he was my father… not until
after his death. The Emperor wrote a codicil to his will in which he recognized
me as his son. (Quotes). “I state and declare that, while a resident in
BLOMBERG: No name for her?
DON JUAN “I
charge my son, Prince Philip, that Jeromin be given duchies in the
BLOMBERG The Emperor… in heaven… will be pleased how the people and King Philip now honour you.
BLOMBERG Nothing is impossible for the Hero of Lepanto.
DON JUAN (Suddenly spent) We shall see.
EMMA Ok, so this is where I come in. Just think how many Habsburgs there were in the 16th and 17th centuries.
EMMA An obvious candidate.
EMMA If he’d gotten the statue, there would have been some record. Every day of his life has been accounted for. There is his son, Philip II. But there are lots of others… even some women. Is there more?
EMMA: And where do you want me to start?
Scene 18. A couple of weeks later.
OTTO What’s going on with you? I leave messages, which you don’t answer—
EMMA (Interrupts) I’ve been awfully busy.
OTTO And when I do reach you… you keep stalling.
EMMA I told you… my new project. Roman antiquities are not exactly my métier. I have a lot of catching up to do.
OTTO Day and night?
EMMA Yes. She doesn’t have much time. The Museum director is bugging her.
OTTO What are those people after? They can’t show we’re wrong.
EMMA We don’t question the chemical evidence.
OTTO We? You mean you’re taking her side? Look. It’s quite simple. The sculpture was cast in 1577.
EMMA What makes you so sure?
OTTO I was the one who did the thermoluminescence work—
EMMA Which leads to such precise dating? How?
OTTO After I opened the hole in his head, I dug a small piece of ceramic out. With thermoluminescence, you can determine the exact date when the ceramic was subjected last to high heat… it’s all in the report we’re sending to the Museum Director…
EMMA And which you intend to publish?
OTTO Of course. Just quote this as a private communication from one of the authors… and then be done with it… and then meet me for dinner.
EMMA And bring Leitner-Opfermann along? So she can congratulate you?
OTTO Well if you’re not going to shower me with your admiration right here… then do it at dinner. And if not at dinner, then—
EMMA Right now it’s all about her. It’s her project… it’s her life’s work. Our Museum director sent me to help her and I plan to do so.
OTTO (Getting curious) What can you people still do about the statue?
OTTO No. It’s settled.
EMMA Perhaps for you . But not for us.
OTTO Emma. Why bother crossing t’s or dotting I’s?
EMMA: How about changing a page or a chapter if not the entire book?
OTTO: I smell your (smirking) Frau Director Dr. Leitner-Opfermann behind such conceit.
EMMA: Leave her alone. You’ve barely met her. Besides… it’s also turned into my conceit.
OTTO (Surprised) I don’t believe it.
EMMA That’s your problem.
OTTO (Slightly backtracking) Sorry… I didn’t mean that.
EMMA I think you did…So you’re satisfied with finding the cast was made in 1577? That’s it?
OTTO But what else is there?
EMMA You don’t think to ask, “why and where it was cast, and who did it?”
OTTO (Irritated) All right! Why?
EMMA I don’t know. (Beat).
OTTO Are you sure? (Beat). You’d tell me if you did, wouldn’t you? Emma?
EMMA Talking about privileged information is dangerous.
OTTO What? (Beat) Even between us?
EMMA That doesn’t make it less privileged. And if you’re snooping, then it’s verboten.
OTTO What’s come over you?
EMMA Regina thinks she is on the track of an explanation that would make your work not wrong… but trivial.
OTTO (Outraged) Trivial?
EMMA You heard me.
OTTO (Trying to let it go) Let’s drop the subject… and be nice to each other. How about dinner tonight?
EMMA I can’t.
EMMAI wish I could. But I’ve got to pack and get ready for a trip.
OTTO For how long?
EMMA It’s open-ended.
OTTO I see. (Beat) Am I allowed to know where you’re going? Or am I snooping?
Really? Hey – I’ve got an idea. Let me go with you. I can be your translator.
For years I spent my holidays at my grandfather’s house in
she should not have offered that information). Please keep quiet about
OTTO (Getting curious) Why Spain??
She is silent.
Oh, Emma! We can’t go on like this all day! Just tell me!
EMMA All right, but… keep it to yourself.
OTTO Of course! What do you take me for? I wish you’d trust me. Just once!
Scene 19 Later that day. Rex’s office.
is Leitner-Opfermann up to? Sending Emma Finger to
OTTO Well… I think she’s trying to get out of the corner you’ve painted her in.
REX Now, now! You’re the one with paint all over his hands. You deserve much of the credit…
OTTO (Hesitatingly) I think she’s trying to prove that what’s standing in the Museum is more than just a 16th century cast.
REX (Becoming suspicious) Are you guessing or do you know?
OTTO I’m putting two and two together.
REX Well? Out with it!
think she believes that the original is somewhere in
You mean, they dug it up in
How about the reverse? The cast was made here… in
REX And she’s trying to find it?
OTTO I guess so.
REX She’s whipping up some sort of Spanish smoke screen to obscure the real science. What’s your evidence?
REX What lines?
OTTO Just lines Rex! Things I pick up here and there.
REX: And your source?
OTTO Source? Well, no one in particular.
REX I see. You wouldn’t want to point a… (beat) finger at anyone… would you? (Beat) Okay! If she wants a Spanish explanation, I’ll give her one.
Later that day.
EMMA The ones in your notes? (Points to papers in her hand). One male, one female? Are they a matching pair?
EMMA What’s the evidence that one was Venus?
EMMA A gift to Philip II?
EMMA That may be worth looking into.
EMMA And the sculptures disappeared?
EMMA Or belonged to the same owner?
Scene 21 A few days later. Rex’s office.
REX Drop everything you’re doing. I want you to start on a project that shouldn’t take more than eight weeks… meaning it must be finished in seven. Is that understood?
OTTO (Attempting banter) What’s the alternative?
REX (Firmly) There isn’t any.
OTTO Sounds serious.
REX And important. Better take some notes. Let’s go back to the complete computer scan of the statue. (Rex punches up image on the computer screen)
OTTO What else is there still to do?
REX I have marked three sections (points to them)… here… here… and here.
OTTO (Puzzled) Right foot, torso and head?
REX Minus the left ear! Don’t skip that. It’s crossed out on the picture.
OTTO Okay… no left ear.
REX You know how to do computer molding, right?
OTTO (Dismissive) I learned computer modelling before I joined your lab.
REX (Sharply) Otto…pay attention. I said “computer molding”… not modelling.
OTTO (Embarrassed) Sorry.
REX How comfortable are you doing a careful molding job?
OTTO: Alone? Without help?
REX I told you this is confidential.
OTTO I’ll need to practice a bit.
REX In that case, start practicing… today!
OTTO And then what?
REX I want plaster figures… precise ones… of those three sections.
OTTO (Astonished… pointing to the screen): Of this?
REX None other than that young gentleman. As soon as they’re ready, you bring them to me for some finishing off. (Disingenuously). You know… the master’s touches.
OTTO To establish co-authorship?
REX You’re a bit of a smarty pants, aren’t you Otto?
OTTO (Who, suitably chastened, starts scribbling in his notepad) And then?
REX Make bronze casts… no more than 5 millimeters thick… and pay particular attention to the trace metal composition. Especially very low Nickel values… you know… typical of the early Roman casts.
OTTO You said Roman?
REX Good… you’re now paying attention. And I want to see the complete atomic absorption data: tin… lead… zinc… iron… silver… antimony… as well as bismuth and cobalt.
OTTO No arsenic?
REX Didn’t I mention arsenic? Of course, that too.
OTTO You want me to make a Roman fake of these three sections?
REX I want us to make Roman originals. At least so original that nobody can tell the difference… with identical chemical fingerprints. Hence the atomic absorption.
buts. (Grins conspiratorially). I want you to search our patina data
base for plausible values. You and I will assume that these parts here were dug
up near a latrine… an old latrine… in fact very old and then covered with earth
that had been farmed with fertilizer used in
OTTO (Realizing what Rex is driving at) You mean harsh enough conditions to explain why the sculpture—
REX (Pleased)… the thin, Roman sculpture… not a thick 16th century version… ended up in pieces. You know… action of ammonia, phosphates… you name it.
OTTO I can’t.
REX What do you mean, “I can’t”?
OTTO I can’t make a fake.
REX Who’s asking you to make a fake?
OTTO A fake that looks like an original… even if undetectable… is still a fake.
REX Don’t you think that depends on its eventual use?
REX Meaning if you tried to peddle what you call the fake as an original for lots of money and succeeded, then it would be a fraud, which, of course, is illegal.
OTTO I am relieved to hear that.
REX But suppose you used it to make a point in an academic dispute… and dress it up as a joke without exchange of money?
OTTO Academic dispute?
REX Show the other party to be wrong by telling them that it’s been faked. And do it in private… not in public?
OTTO Well, that’s different I suppose...
REX You bet it’s different! Now get going. And don’t forget! I shall add the finishing touches before the bronze casting, but you’ll watch me. I need a witness. In fact, I need more… I need an active accomplice who knows when to keep his mouth shut.
Scene 22 FOURTH DON JUAN/BARBARA BLOMBERG INTERMEZZO)
DON JUAN Madam! I wish you would just tell me what you want. What is it? Forgiveness? Reconciliation with your long lost illegitimate son? I am afraid it’s impossible. The King would not allow it.
BLOMBERG My son. Permit me to suggest a gift the King cannot refuse.
DON JUAN There is nothing my brother cannot refuse.
BLOMBERG That maybe so… but he will not refuse this gift. It will be of no consequence to his Majesty, but if you request it, I shall depart in peace even if I shall never set eyes on you again.
DON JUAN (Now curious) What gift?
BLOMBERG The statue.
DON JUAN (Puzzled) What statue?
Roman origin, found in
DON JUAN (Bemused) A gift… desired by you… for me… from my brother? Who’d surely refuse it if he knew its purpose? (Beat). An engaging thought… devious and therefore more engaging.
BLOMBERG Nobody need know the source of this request.
DON JUAN Indeed… nobody. Hmm. (Nods to himself). Describe the statue.
BLOMBERG (Eagerly) A young Roman man… beautiful (shyly)… like you, Sire.
DON JUAN Yes?
BLOMBERG He is naked.
DON JUAN (Smiling) As is his Venus.
BLOMBERG (Puzzled): His Venus?
DON JUAN: A
gift from Francesco de Medici to my brother… and now standing in the
Scene 23 A few weeks
He wheels a large bag. He opens and unpacks its contents as the conversation progresses.
LOPEZ (Throughout with perceptible Spanish accent) Our institute is named after the founder of Iberian dinosaurology-
LOPEZ Dino… saurology. The study of dinosaurs.
LOPEZ (Reaches into his bag and removes a small object). This item is bronze.
LOPEZ: A foot. A human one… not a dinosaur’s.
LOPEZ (Feigning concern) Anything wrong?
LOPEZ You know my country?
LOPEZ In a dig… near my city.
LOPEZ You know my city? We have wonderful strawberries. Espectacular strawberries.
LOPEZ Dinosaurologists follow one rule: When in doubt, don’t throw it away. (Beat). Since this was bronze, I was tempted, but…
LOPEZ It seemed old.
LOPEZ Yes… there were other parts.
LOPEZ (Not making any move to remove them) You do not wish to know why I came to see you?
LOPEZ The head—
LOPEZ His head. (Points to foot).
When I was in
LOPEZ Your competition… the other Museum.
LOPEZ Exactly. I came across to your bookstore and saw pictures of your beautiful young man.
LOPEZ So I went to see him.
LOPEZ I was impressed.
LOPEZ His head…
LOPEZ His… how you say? (Pointing to his hair)
LOPEZ No. (Fashions a curl out of his own hair and points to it). This.
LOPEZ Yes. I noticed… a Fibonacci sequence.
LOPEZ So does this head… here (points to his bag).
LOPEZ Unfortunately… one ear is missing.
LOPEZ (With deliberate slowness unwraps the head and puts it on her desk) Here.
REGINA takes the head and studies it with excruciating care and obvious affection, while Lopez observes her. They say nothing for prolonged period.
LOPEZ (Again unwraps item very slowly) Here. (Puts torso on her desk).
LOPEZ Sell them.
LOPEZ You want to buy it?
LOPEZ (Points to the three items) Which one interests you the most?
LOPEZ (Pointing to her hands that are still stroking the bronze buttocks) Not this one?
LOPEZ (Mimics her voice) “How much do I want for all three?” The question is, how much are the three worth to you?
LOPEZ Of course. But you say you cannot mention any sum? You mean no sum… for these treasures?
LOPEZ Give me a number.
LOPEZ (Pretends to hesitate, finally reaches over to her desk, picks up a page from a note pad and writes down a figure. Hands over the slip of paper) Here… in writing… for your sponsors.
LOPEZ (Reaches for the left foot of the sculpture as if he were about to pack it up) Not serious?
LOPEZ (Puzzled) Currency?
LOPEZ (Grinning) Also true for most Spaniards. But I never had that problem. The day the EU changed to the Euro, I switched from pesetas to Euros… selling and buying… even in my dreams. (Smiles). Especially in my dreams! No pesetas… not once!
LOPEZ Impossible? Do you know what I can get for a dinosaur egg?
LOPEZ Exactly! I can always find another one. But these are unique. (Under his breath). Ojalá. (Louder). And therefore irreplaceable… and worth even more than dinosaur eggs (beat)… to the right customer. (Beat). I guess you are not the one. (Again reaches to wrap one of the items).
pitying tone) What a pity… for your museum. But there may be others.
my business there is no “final.” If there is more than one customer… say Abu
LOPEZ I see nothing. So far I have not approached anyone else.
LOPEZ Original? In that case, what are these? (Points to sculpture fragments).
I see. Well… why not tell me what concession you would consider fair?
REGINA (Quickly) 25%.
LOPEZ A 25% reduction?
REGINA No, no! One quarter of this sum.
LOPEZ No, no, no! That’s not 25%, that’s 75%! Absurdo! Even with dinosaur eggs I consider 75% reductions insulting… unless the shell is cracked. But look at the head! Except for the missing ear, it is perfect! Or the torso. Even an intact penis! Admittedly a very small one (makes suggestive dismissive gesture using his pinkie)… but certainly no fig leaf. Just imagine I found a portion of a dinosaur with his penis… a phallo-dinosaurian remnant… even such a puny one! Just imagine what I could ask… (beat)… and what I could get for it.
LOPEZ Did I offer a concession?
LOPEZ (Looks at her for a long time) All right. I shall make one. But only one!
LOPEZ A 25% concession… but not one Euro less! Think it over.
LOPEZ That’s all?
LOPEZ No chemical analysis?
LOPEZ Claro. But—
LOPEZ A receipt.
LOPEZ No secretary. A hand-written receipt. I am old-fashioned.
LOPEZ (As she is writing, he eventually picks up torso piece, playfully touching the penis) By the way, when you list the torso, add “with intact penis.”
LOPEZ (Reads it carefully) One more thing.
LOPEZ How long do you wish to hold it? This must be written here.
LOPEZ (Low whistle) That long?
LOPEZ Write down that I’m giving you four, Senora Opfermann.
Scene 24. The
REX Ascribe it to curiosity. I never expected to be invited back to your office
REX (Wags his head, surprised) I didn’t expect to hear that from you either, but sure. Why not?
(Long pause during which she says nothing, just playing with the cloth covering the sculpture pieces).
REX (Puzzled tone) Was there something specific you wanted to tell me?
REX (Ironic) You don’t say!
REX Whereupon you practically threw me out of your office.
REX (Sharply) Well, you did!
REX (Reluctantly) So what favor?
REX (Interrupts) Out of the question!
REX For how long?
REX Maybe. (Pause). If you tell me the reason.
REX Well… you haven’t much choice. But yes, I’ll keep it to myself.
REX To me, “research” is an ambiguous word when coming from a non-scientist.
REX What kind of research are we talking about here?
REX (Feigns surprise) Well… well! Rather like yours.
REX Of course I’m not.
REX Of course I haven’t.
REX But for that, you’d first have to announce openly that your young man is not a Roman original. You’re prepared to do that?
REX Is that where they were found? You may need an export license for that.
REX I see. And it would be awkward if our paper appeared before you’ve succeeded in raising the money.
REX And after you’ve acquired them?
REX Perhaps you’ll be kind enough to explain what bearing these three items have on our publication plans?
REX I already said so.
REX “Suspected”? Past tense? When and where did you suspect that?
REX I read it carefully and I recall no reference to such a find.
REX Go on.
REX And how did that sculpture get to
REX Which one?
REX Unless you find the alleged recipient… and its donor, you have nothing but a vague hypothesis, an ephemeral idea.
REX Granted, it’s amusing. But as happens so often… slain by an untidy fact.
REX A verbal fig leaf…
REX (Sarcastic) I defer to your sensitivity. How about “a charming hypothesis, whose authenticity I regretfully must question.”
REX Cocksure? Actually… chemical analysis wouldn’t have helped much… even if you’d considered stooping that low. (Picks up torso fragment, pretending to examine it carefully, notably the penis). Not this time. But artistic judgment… careful, visual inspection… attention to subtle, aesthetic details—
REX It is affected…regardless of its source. But you accused me of being cocksure.
REX A compliment?
REX But let’s pursue cocksureness or cockassurance or whatever the noun is. Let me start with… (slowly and forcefully) the phallic angle.
REX May I show you some images?
(Regina turns on the light box, as Rex takes 4 slides out of his pocket)
REX Here is your precious young man… Look at it carefully. You agree that’s him, don’t you?
REX: Good Here is a close up of the groin.
(Close up of penis region to just above the pubic hair)
REX Why do you ask? Because it seems to be this torso? (Points to item on her desk).
REX Are you sure?
(REGINA, though clearly suspicious, picks it up, goes closer to the light box and compares the two).
Next picture. A close up of the groin of that torso. (Rex
REX One more image, removing, I hope, any fallacious conclusion.
puts 3rd & 4th slide back to back and hands them to
REX Ah. You noticed?
REX About 7.5 degrees to the Southwest…compared to the penis of your museum specimen. Not much… but too much a discrepancy to have come from the same cast.
Scene 25 A few days later.
OTTO Finally I thought you’d never come back!
EMMA Well, is he coming?
OTTO He said he would.
EMMA It’s ten past three.
OTTO It’s good to see you again. How was
EMMA How could you?
OTTO It wasn’t my idea.
EMMA You had nothing to do with it?
OTTO I helped… but only because Rex insisted.
EMMA I bet it didn’t take much persuasion. Well? Is he coming or not?
OTTO Where’s your director?
EMMA: I didn’t say she’d be here.
EMMA Professor Stolzfuss… please (points to chair).
REX Where’s your boss?
REX As well she might be. But in that case, why waste my time?
EMMA I need to say something to both of you… as assistant curator of the Renaissance Department of our museum.
REX I am not accustomed to dealing with surrogates…
EMMA Is that what you take me for? Just a surrogate?
REX I was being polite. I could’ve said “stooge.”
OTTO (Pleading): Please!
REX (Sharply) Please what?
OTTO Give her a chance.
EMMA (Ironic):A prick of conscience, Otto?
REX You leave Otto out of this!
EMMA (Sarcastic) My apologies. I hadn’t realized you were solely responsible for this juvenile prank. Why did you have to rub it in when Dr. Leitner-Opfermann was so vulnerable? When she was so sure she was on the right track after all those years?
REX I did her a favor.
EMMA (Outraged) A favor?
REX So she wouldn’t make a fool of herself with the Museum director or potential donors.
EMMA Haven’t you got the sequence of events out of order? If there had been no fake, there would be no sponsors.
REX (Backtracking) I also wanted to teach her a lesson… that she can’t refuse to listen to scientific facts because of some art historical obsession.
EMMA You might have done it more elegantly.
REX You mean I should have changed the angle by only 2 degrees? Admittedly, elegance is a subjective notion… but I thought 7.5 degrees was elegant enough. Besides, I thought it was amusing.
EMMA It was puerile.
REX What is your point?
EMMA What about this? (Points to torso).
REX It’s not in our paper.
EMMA Of course not. It’s a fake. But Director Leitner-Opfermann posits—
REX Exactly! “Posits!” That’s her problem. Positing rather than proving! Speculating rather than testing!
EMMA Suppose I present you with some facts?
REX What facts?
EMMA (Picks up some papers and shoves them in Rex’s
direction). Copies of some documents I found in
REX Which Don Juan is this?
EMMA Since this text isn’t easy to decipher, let me
summarize it for you. Don Juan of Austria was the illegitimate half-brother of
King Philip II of
REX (Sarcastically) Thank you for your pithy summary. But why would Don Juan have asked for that sculpture?
EMMA There’s a reference here about pairing it with a Roman sculpture of Venus.
REX And where are those sculptures?
EMMA: They were in the
REX And now?
EMMA The Venus is now in the Prado in
OTTO And the young man?
REX That’s all?
EMMA It’s enough to indicate what happened to that original 1502 bronze. And since we don’t claim anymore that ours is that original one, what’s there left for you to publish?
REX Weren’t we the first to show that it is only a 16th century cast?
EMMA Granted. And we’ll happily and fulsomely acknowledge
that fact in a footnote to our paper describing how the Austrian original of
1502 ended up in
REX (Beat) How about us putting your Spanish hypothesis in a footnote to our paper?
EMMA (Grinning) As you said, I’m only a stooge. Whose footnote goes where will have to be settled between the principals. But if it all gets reduced to footnotes, I’d call that poetic justice.
REX If (assumes sarcastic tone) your Frau Director has anything further to say to me, she knows where she can find me.
OTTO I’m so sorry.
EMMA So am I.
OTTO Can you forgive me?
EMMA Otto! Your Rex would never have thought of that joke,
had he not known the reason why I went to
OTTO You have to admit, some of it actually must have been funny.
EMMA It was you, wasn’t it?
OTTO What if I say yes?
EMMA Would you have told me if I hadn’t asked?
OTTO No…I didn’t know how you’d take it.
EMMA Why did you do it?
OTTO Rex was very persuasive and it all seemed so funny at the time.
EMMA Have you any idea how humiliated she felt?
OTTO I can imagine.
EMMA I doubt it.
OTTO All right. I admit I was wrong. Will you forgive me?
EMMA It won’t work. I don’t trust you, Otto. Not anymore.
Scene 26 A couple of weeks later. Rex’s office.
REX What is this? A diplomatic mission or slumming among chemists?
REX I can hardly wait, considering the total absence of diplomacy in all of our earlier meetings.
REX Yes… both. So what brings you here?
REX Usually, treaties only start after a cease fire.
REX Why weren’t you there?
REX: Well… well. So we’ve both been kept in the dark by our underlings. Otto never told me that he had something going with your Finger.
REX (Sharply) That’s not fair. He’s a first-class chemist.
REX If you consider that a diplomatic overture to a cease-fire—
REX Perhaps. But Otto’s trace metal analysis wasn’t crooked. The thermoluminescence wasn’t crooked….
REX That wasn’t chemistry… it was closer to art.
REX Why crooked? I told you about it in private… though perhaps not too diplomatically. But then you had royally pissed me off.
REX What I had really come to discuss…but you wouldn’t let me was whether we had another Michelangelo sham on our hands.
REX Knew what?
REX Well, it’s a famous, not to say notorious fact that Michelangelo buried a marble Cupid in a garden… to age it artificially and then sell it a few months later as an antique. That isn’t fiction.
REX Then why is there no reference to Don Juan in your book?
REX So we both agree your sculpture is not the Roman original?
REX One question… a peaceful one: now that we are settled on the chronological reattribution, what does that mean for the value of your sculpture?
REX I suppose all three.
REX Financial then. I’d say the Greek Ur-original would be the most valuable, the Roman copies less so and a mechanical bronze cast…like yours… the least.
REX And thus making your cast more valuable (he laughs). I think I’m hearing you busily making a silk purse from a sow’s ear.
REX But isn’t your collection presented chronologically?
REX But now you have a 16th Century sculpture among early Roman works of art... it’s lost it parking permit, you’ve got to move it.
REX In spite of what you just said?
REX Didn’t you get divorced.
REX So why not annul the sculpture?
REX (Grinning) So you’re tearing up the parking ticket we issued?
REX A scofflaw in a museum?
Quite an offer! (Beat). Why not? I can just see what people will say
when they read a paper by Rex Stolzfuss and Regina Leitner-Opfermann. It sounds
quite magisterial: "Rex and
REX Even shorter. Stolzfuss and Leitner.
REX Since my name starts with an S, I’ve never believed in alphabetical order.
REX That word does not exist in chemistry. My name has always come first on every paper I ever published.
Scene 27 Later that day. Regina’s office and Rex’s office, split scene.
EMMA You went to his office? Why?
EMMA Don’t be too hard on yourself, Frau Director.
EMMA I’d advise against it.
EMMA Well… I don’t think you’d be any happier if you saw the original. There are some problems with dating the document. Not a fake, but…
EMMA If I were you—
EMMA Given that I’ve just had my fingers burned —
EMMA And given that these selfsame documents have just saved my reputation…
EMMA I would not myself pursue the validity of the documents.
EMMA I would consider that my obsession had caused me enough trouble as it is and I would just…
EMMA (Nods): I would. And then just revise my book a bit… especially the index.
EMMA And perhaps even under “penis.”
EMMA I’d… throw it in the bin.
(Rex picks up the phone and starts dialling).
How about dinner?
EMMA: Thank you. I’d love to!
REGINA Regina Leitner.
REX (On phone) Rex Stolzfuss.
REX I’ve had an idea….
END OF PLAY