"A Big Confusing Battle"

Albrecht Addledorfer

When Francis I of France declared war against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V for having allegedly disparaged French beer, Addledorfer was lucky enough to secure a commission for exclusive battlefront coverage. Not at all a political man, Addledorfer found himself quickly lost amid the troops and banners and colors and the general disorder of the front. Unable to tell which side was French and which was German, he hastily roughed out a bundle of sketches, which he later assembled into the subject painting, being very careful to obscure all evidence of flags and other identifying marks, and leaving it up to the observer to determine who was who and which side was winning. He was so successful in his stratagem that he was able to sell an identical copy to the French king, with no one the wiser. He began using the same technique whenever he was called on to record a battle.


After peace was declared, Addledorfer's battle paintings had made him rich and famous throughout the land. As a signal honor, Charles V appointed him Court Painter. Alas, poor Albrecht blundered seriously on his first assignment, which was to record an afternoon mixed doubles match of the new game of tennis on the grounds of the royal residence. Panicked when he suddenly realized he couldn't distinguish one player from another, Addledorfer fell back on the same face-saving ruse he had used so successfully on the battlefield. The Royal Family was not amused when they saw the results, however, as tennis is quite a bit different from warfare, and the painter had confused the issue by adding several hundred players, all with their racquets raised and tennis balls flying about hither and yon.


However, the old Emperor was a merry old soul, a merry old soul was he, and he not only forgave poor Albrecht, but gave him a new commission, to paint the official portraits of the infant heirs to the throne, who were three years old at the time of the painting and — most unfortunately for the artist-- identical twins. It wasn't long before Albrecht had them hopelessly confused, and, placing his fate in the hands of the Almighty, he fell back on his tried-and-true battlefield formula as a means of salvation. 


At the royal unveiling the Emperor and Empress and the Emprinces and Emprincesses took one look at the 42 children depicted on the canvas and were not amused. The artist, quaking in his boots as he realized the jig was up, was condemned to paint only the royal fences and cow barns for the rest of his days. He perished miserably after falling head first into a manure pile while trying to paint the eaves of the royal stable.

 

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