Pissing on the Ice

Last night I read an essay by Josef Scu, a young Romanian scholar, whose ongoing research on the aforementioned Ingemar Hölleston girlfriend’s-nicknames-taken-from-Dutch-painting-conundrum is, I am often being told, producing ‘radical results’. I don’t know about that, but I won’t deny that a few of his conclusions brush the sleeve of interestingness, occasionally pushing the claims of the otherwise honorable Professor Biffwright into the critical shade.

Scu’s most radical argument thus far is that the character we know as Mrs Winter Scene may be a reference to the cross-dressing musician Marco Overkamp.  No, no, say you: ‘why yes’ says Scu. In fact, Overkamp’s reported ‘closeness’ to Hölleston has been under dicussion for some time now. Of course, there are those (myself included) who find it hard to imagine that Ingemar, ferociously heterosexual in so many of his tastes, would ever have swayed in that particular direction. On the other hand, one must admit that Overkamp was no ordinary cross-dresser. He was, in the one words of one writer, ‘a better woman than most woman’. ‘What he lacked anatomically,’ it was said elsewhere, ‘he more than made up for in other ways’.

Fair enough. But why Mrs Winter Scene? There is a clear clue in the name: Overkamp is, of course, remarkably similar to Averkamp, the name of one of the most famous painters of winter scenes. Both men seem to have been aware of this, constantly alluding to it, without ever quite confirming the connection. Few letters between the two men exist – and Overkamp is mentioned by Hölleston only rarely – though Scu does well to prove that, when he is brought up, it is usually accompanied by a subtle reference to Avercamp or his paintings. In one passage, for instance, Hölleston writes that ‘Marco, that charlatan, has been spotted once more, pissing on the ice’ – surely an allusion to the almost obligatory urinating man we find in such paintings. In another he writes, ‘Marco will, I am sure, in the best English tradition, get on his skates and be there before me’ – once again linking Overkamp to the sort of seasonal activity with which Averkamp’s landscapes tend to be associated.

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