Audrey Parthenos by Matt George Lovett
When Phidias the Sculptor met Audrey Hepburn, in a rooftop studio in the southwest corner of the Fortunate Isles, he was less than pleased. He’d spent an eternity in pursuit of the Athenian divine. The perfect model for the perfect statue. An unconquerable form to coax from the living marble. A form that Phidias had yet to find.
“I cannot sculpt you,” said Phidias, arching his brow, “You haven’t the figure befitting a Goddess. You are no Aphrodite.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Audrey, who found Phidias to be quite the obstinate being, “Are you saying I look bad?”
“You’re not perfect,” said Phidias, running fingers through his sweat-matted hair, “Your body is all wrong.”
“And what, exactly, is wrong with it?”
“Look at yourself,” said Phidias, gesturing with his hammer, “You’re far too skinny. You’ve arms like twigs and the hips of an underfed child.”
“And what’s wrong about that?”
“I’ve no flesh to work with,” said Phidias, “A woman should have pendulous hips, like so, so ideal for child-bearing. With a bosom full, and legs thick like amphorae. Skin like fresh milk catching the sun, and hair like spun silk that falls in perfect waves.”
“And why should it be so?” asked Audrey. She took a seat on a block of marble, where a woman’s
shape had been left half-carved, and lit herself a long smoke.
“Because that is the ideal,” said Phidias, “The body of a woman is an artist’s pursuit. Each a study in the modes of beauty, in new ways to capture the eye and the mind. Fascinating, yes, but infinitely flawed. A beautiful woman, is that not the most elusive of things?”
Phidias took another glance at Audrey, posed to perfection on that half-carved maiden, and scowled, “Come back to me when you’ve been fed.”
Audrey smiled. They’d warned her about Phidias. He had a reputation. He’d refused to sculpt Nell Gwyn unless she removed ‘that hideous corset’ and had sent Marilyn Monroe away because she had ‘the skin of a farmer’s spawn’. For eons he’d been promising to sculpt his ode to the earthly beauty, but he’d turned away the best of them. None were good enough.
Phidias threw down his tools with a defeatist sigh. He turned toward the window and wandered through his failures. Figures of marble and granite he’d left unfinished. Wide-hipped women, thin women, tall, short, of every make-up. He left them all behind and walked to the window,looking out upon the pleasant departed.
Audrey slipped her Kodak Cresta from her handbag, and set the camera to her eye. She saw Phidias framed in the sunlight. His terracotta skin, baked
from the hours of labour under the sun and shrivelled like a fruit left out in the glare. The tufts of doggish hair that carpeted his arms and bare chest, alien to razors and honest grooming. The unkempt beard shot through with weary grey, where beads of sweat were pooling. The ripples and sinews of the muscles packed across his arms and chest. Once so taut, as a marble-pounder’s should be, now drooping on duty and swaying as he moved. That belly bred on beer, long past the days when Phidias cared to nurse it, and those eyes that bore no hint of mankind’s manners.
Audrey snapped the shutter down. Capturing it all, save the musk and the cantankerous air. She watched it fade in the viewfinder, and gave a short, humourless chuckle.
A beautiful man is easy to find.
Bio: Matt George Lovett is a London-based writer,
filmmaker, music journalist and musician.
Often dwelling on the strange and surreal,
he is best known as the writer of upcoming
science-fiction film Mariana 627.
Illustration: Rotimi Olusola