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"Young Esteban Gets While the Getting Is Good"

Pere Borrell del Cashflow

The illegitimate Basque painter del Cashflow had a reputation as one of the cruelest artists of the 19th century.  He specialized in the style known as trompe l'oeil — literally, "a stomp in the eye," and this callous attitude is reflected in all his works. He had no patience with the figures he painted, often leaving a nude on the canvas uncovered during the bitterest days of winter, or failing to supply a banquet scene with silverware or beverages for weeks at a time. The waifs in his mural for the Don Bosco Orphanage in Barcelona perished of neglect while he drew out their completion over a period of two years.

In 1870 del Cashflow returned to his studio after a prolonged lunch involving two bottles of absinthe and prepared to apply the finishing touches to his canvas, "Young Streetwalker, Pamplona." He had been particularly cruel to the figure in this painting, portraying her as a bruised, dilapidated slut and even adding her street address to the painting to further mortify her.

The artist uncovered the painting on its easel, only to discover that, although the background remained unchanged, the central figure was missing! He looked everywhere in his studio before notifying the police, who explained to him that the Missing Persons Bureau could do nothing for him and that he should apply to the Missing Subjects Bureau.

Enraged, del Cashflow returned to the street where he had found the young strumpet, intending to haul her back to the canvas and add a fresh set of bruises to her face. He spotted her in an alley and gave chase, only to be halted abruptly by a refrigerator-sized individual who described himself as the girl's newly-acquired pimp as he pounded the painter into the cobblestones.

Staggering back to his studio, del Cashflow discovered his Madonna and Child had fled the premises, probably because of the painter's steadfast refusal to circumcise the child, despite Jewish law. The next morning the Gascony Shepherdess was gone, taking the sheep with her. Late in the afternoon the Elderly Beggar had gone to try his fortunes elsewhere, preferring the threat of the workhouse to the artist's scornful and mocking brushstrokes.

A security camera happened to catch the painting shown above just as the "Tuberculosis Victim, Madrid," made his daring escape from the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts in 1874. Esteban, as he was later identified, told enquiring reporters that once out of the dismal painting he no longer suffered from the dread disease, and was thinking of slipping into a Fragonard to build up some meat on his bones.


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