Michael Blackburn's ART ZERO


Tucked away in an old copy of a biography of Munthe at a friend's house in Australia I discovered a newspaper clipping whose publication date I calibrate as 1981, the paper being the London Evening Standard. The short text appears in the gossip column and concerns Munthe's grandson, Axel. It comes complete with a photograph of the young man (then in his early thirties), in casual Ďat-home' garb, ie tieless shirt with the collars outside the pullover (fashion victims please note); a head-and-shoulder shot with suitably erudite background of bookshelves. A young man strangely reminsicent of Bruce Chatwin in looks. The piece concerns Munthe's association with Princess Margaret (they shared pasta and Soave last week at the Fulham Road trattoria Il Girasole [I knew it well]) and says: Munthe, a dilettante theatre director, [is that shorthand for self-indulgent rich-kid with no day job?] may surprise the Queen's sister with his antics. He takes his parrot Augusta to dinner parties, sometimes sleeps in a coffin in his basement and busks Albinoni and Vivaldi on a musical saw on the King's Road. Luckily, as I was living on Fulham Road, just around the corner, at the time, I didn't bump into melodious Axel, otherwise I would have felt obliged to smack him one in the face and use his saw for more surgical purposes.