So today, whilst doing actual legitimate research for work (no, really) I stumbled across this rather remarkable painting.
It’s called The Art of the Game by Michael J. Browne and you can find it at the National Football Museum. It was painted in 1997 and, as you can see – it can only be described as ‘quite something.’ I mean, just look at Eric Cantona! It’s such an intriguing painting, there just has to be a story behind it. Artistically speaking, The Art of the Game is actually a pastiche of two much older paintings. The top half of the picture is based on ‘The Triumphs of Caesar’ by Andrea Mantegna
You can see that Caesar has been substituted for former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. My knowledge of 90s football trivia is somewhat lacking, so I’m not sure who exactly is crowning Sir Alex with the laurel leaves of victory.
The main part of the painting come from a fresco depicting the Resurrected Christ by Piero della Francesca (which dates from c. 1460).
Cantona, as you can see, takes the place of Christ in the image, who is standing over 4 sleeping soldiers. In the new version, the soldiers’ places have been taken by other members of the Manchester United squad of this time, including a much younger David Beckham.
When I found this painting on the BBC Your Paintings site I had no idea what to make of it. So, what does one do today when you find something you can’t explain? You ask the experts. Thankfully, twitter has made conversations like this much easier.
The conversation went as follows:
(If you click on the link you can find a more detailed analysis, it’s really interesting to see the theme of Resurrection applied to football).
(Of course it’s on loan from Cantona himself!)
What was really nice about this, is that a conversation actually happened! It’s always great to see a museum doing social media well – well done the social media team at the National Football Museum (go follow them!). I like how they recognise that the painting isn’t to everyone’s taste as these tweets confirm.
What do you think of it? And, perhaps more importantly, can you name the sleeping soldiers who aren’t David Beckham?!