Updated: Aug 4
Readers of a certain age will remember a controversial breakthrough in the biography of Culinary Bio-Ethicist Professor Brian Thrupiece when, in January 2020, it was claimed that his presence in Paris in 1957 on a top secret mission had been confirmed by a depiction of him in a contemporary painting by famous French naive artist Cézanne Francksdiarée [HERE]. The authenticity of the image - in which the 17 year old former prodigy is portrayed as an observant waiter - was challenged at the time on several grounds - including the "fact" that the Professor, even at that relatively tender age "would never stoop so low as to clear tables and possibly wash glasses"*.
*The idea that he could have been undercover and working as a triple agent for the USA and the USSR as well as our own secret service would have been dismissed out of hand at that time though we now know that when it comes to the Professor, as Thrupiece expert Wayr Si Gonne has written, "almost anything is possible".
When the painting was first discovered, our Parisian correspondent Oprah de la Bastille wrote:
Evidence that the Professor and the artist ever met is scant [Francksdiarée died in1958 when the Professor was only 18], though a meeting cannot be ruled out entirely since by 1958 Professor Thrupiece had already travelled to Paris at least six times [the first three from 1948 onwards as part of the secret negotiations with the Soviets over his methane-rocket technology]. However, it seems unlikely that the man in the portrait is the Professor since the already distinguished would-be culinary bioethicist hardly needed to"earn his keep" during his frequent sojourns in the French capital and was only 18 at the time of the artist's death.
This does not, however, settle the matter definitively since Thrupiece watcher - Bi Nocula - believes the Professor may have undertaken waiting duties either as a prank [he was notably mischievous from the age of 4 onwards] or "to get a fuller sense of the ordinary lives of Parisians whose mores he so admired but whose lack of industry he despised". [He once famously described General De Gaul as "une grosse grenouille paresseuse".]
Now comes further intriguing "proof" of a Parisian presence in the form of a painting of The Madeleine, "signed" by Professor Thrupiece and definitively dated to 1957, the year before his matriculation at famous donation-hub and one-time academic centre of excellence Alma Mater College, Cambridge. Inventory Rolls in the Archives at the College - voted Crowd Funding Institution of the Year [2015-2023 and counting [literally [Ed]]] - suggest that the Professor arrived in October of 1958 with, amongst several other possessions, one trunk, one easel, water colours, oils, sable brushes and "a recently completed painting of The Madeleine, Paris in a retro style which could easily be taken for the 1880s". Art historian Oylon Kanvas has written, "if one single thing defines the art of Professor Thrupiece, whether aged 5 or 65, it is a naive but disciplined eclecticism in which every school of European painting finds both expression and a home. To call him chameleon-like is to overestimate the natural abilities of a chameleon".
The painting has recently appeared for sale in the Summer Catalogue of Fine auctioneers Sotherbones and is expected to attract strong interest. Listed as "the property of a lady" The Madeleine is one of several Parisian views sketched by Professor Thrupiece in May 1957 and completed in Cambridge during lectures by well-known Culinary Bio-ethics pioneer Dr Kenwood Chefe**
**Dr Kenwood Chefe (1898-1982) Cambridge’s leading Bio-ethics pioneer. It was said of him that “there was little of which he didn’t know except for the world of which he knew very little”. He proved both mentor and benefactor to Professor Thrupiece who acknowledged his influence whenever he could and dedicated his second book “Heuristic Bio-ethics: Axioms, Frameworks and Prosthetics”to him. Hearing that Dr Chefe had fallen upon hard times in later life, Professor Thrupiece senthim 200 Green Shield Stamps and a postal order for £15. [Dorset Dictionary of Regional Biography]
Our People Past and Present Correspondent [Arlo Liefs] writes:
Whether the discovery of The Madeleine and its clear provenance will finally settle the matter off Professor Thrupiece's presence in Paris in 1957 remains anyone's guess. Further, there will remain the open - and perhaps unanswerable question of what his presence there signifies. In truth, we may have "discovered" yet another provable prototype Thrupiece oil on canvass, but we are still nowhere near to fathoming the enigma that is - and will perhaps ever remain - the young Professor on the cusp of manhood and self-discovery. Might the answer lie buried in the sealed box currently resting in the Alma Mater College Archive and clearly marked "not to be opened until Christmas 2025"?