by Edd Doerr
Peter Schjeldahl's long review of Anthony Bailey's new book "Velasquez and the Surrender of Breda: The Making of a Masterpiece" in the Jan 2, 2012, New Yorker is superb. And it contains a half-page reproduction of the painting ("La rendicion de Breda" in Spanish) by the early 17th century master of an incident in Spain's long and stupid war in the Netherlands. (I might note that the painting contains an image that some today would regard as a portrayal of either George W. Bush or Newt Gingrich.) The painting reminds me of something that happened thirty years or so ago when I was in Spain for a conference. I had a five hour layover at Madrid's Barajas Airport, so I took the short cab ride to downtown Madrid to the Corte Ingles department store, where I bought two full-size replica antique swords (at $15 each they were a steal).
On returning to the airport (my bags had already been checked through to New York) I walked up to an airport cop, held out the two swords, and asked "Donde se rinden las armas?" (Literally, "Where does one surrender one's weapons?") The cop was not amused. Either he didn't get the joke or he was not familiar with his country's most well known painter.
When I got to New York the swords had gone missing, but two days later they turned up and were sent to my office in Washington.
The moral: Don't expect airport cops to know much about art history -- or have a sense of humor.