Cast the trout-tight net of your able minds back to last November, when I wrote the words: ‘it seems that the women in his life (of which there were many, all nicknamed after Dutch paintings) were keen either to stifle his parrot-murdering tendencies altogether – or at the very least prevent him from fashioning boxes out of their feathery corpses’
Intriguing words, no? No? Admittedly, I may have lingered unnecessarily on the matter of the parrot-boxes (more here, for those who missed that first time) whilst skipping with misguided glee over the most interesting matter of all. This, certainly, is the impression I have been given by half a dozen correspondents, all them salivating over the prospect of learning more about Ingemar Hölleston’s habit (for it is he) of giving his girlfriends nicknames based on, or entirely derived from paintings of the so-called Dutch Golden Age.
I’d love to be able to inform you that his approach was born out of some profound understanding of, well, anything – but it seems that the affectation may have been an absurd fancy from start to finish. The most recent study of the case (I refer, of course, to Arnold Biffwright’s 2007 article Into Miss Interior: Passion, Possession, Pure Nonsense and Ingemar Hölleston’s Naughty Little Address Book) does make some links between the names given and the women to whom they were given, but few of them are convincing, leaving the main strength of any research in this area to lie in our growing knowledge of Hölleston’s deep fascination with Dutch painting.
Here, in any case, is a small collection of these nicknames, prescribed to certain friends of his, some of which we know the real names of, some of which we don’t.
Miss Interior was, we are all agreed, the moniker thrown upon Amy Legrand, daughter of Phillipe Legrand, the monkey brain specialist. Mrs Night Watch, meanwhile, was almost certainly Countess Berlaud, the buxom Belgian beauty. But what of Miss Gallant Conversation, Mrs Winter Scene and The Dropsical Woman? What of Madam Self-Portrait with a Skull and Mrs Family Portrait in a Landscape?
Alas, we know not their true identities.