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"Procession of the Royal Gravy Boat, 1338"


Another work by the incredible Anonymous, whose career spanned more than two millennia in Europe alone. The Museum was fortunate to acquire this stunning artwork when a guard in the Louvre fell asleep after lunch. It depicts the annual feast at St-Denis in France, commissioned by Charles V¹ to reflect his love of gravy boats, gravy ladles and the saucers that go under gravy boats. His admirers even made him an ornate cap with gold braid, navy blue velvet and the title, Grand Capitaine des Bateaux à Sauce² surrounding the royal coat of arms. He was reportedly pleased as punch to receive it and showered largess on his followers, as was his wont.

The judging was done by the Kings of Upper and Lower Saxony and the Popes of Inner and Outer Burgundy, with King Charles V himself in the center.³  As the king was long dead by the time the painting was finished, he is represented as a semi-transparent ghost, which accounts for the worried look on the faces of the other judges.

As part of the entertainment the Siege of Jerusalem was reenacted, shown at the far right. It is not known whether the Siege of 1099, the Siege of 1187 or the Siege of 1244 is being depicted, since they were all Crusaders vs Saracens and hard to tell apart without a program. In the left foreground is an impatient reporter from Three Keys Press International in his mini-cog, a sort of medieval washtub famous for its ability to sink from either end.

It is not reported which gravy boat won this particular contefields, well-fertilized with the dead, were sought out by local farmers, competition for which often led to local wars.

¹ It stood for Virgin, but the King preferred using only the initial, especially after his marriage to Harriet the Plump of the Netherlands. 

² "I am the Captain of the Pinafore, and a right good Captain, too!"

 ³ The figure to the far right is neither a king nor a pope, but the Official Applauder of St-Denis. It was one of the many make-work titles for castle hangers-on, like the Sponsor of Prunes, the Bearer of Mousetraps, the Imperial Vice-Cabbage and the Straightener of Horseshoes.  The tradition is carried on even today in England, where Buckingham Palace employs the Black Rod, the Groom of the Stool, the Master of Buckhounds and the Royal Horse Consort. The last is never publicly identified because of the snickering.

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