I believe the large lady was mooching about amongst the apple trees at the bottom of the garden, well nearby. It provoked me into looking for my pistol. In France they are marginally more relaxed about gun ownership than in the U.K., why I don't know or even why owning a gun would interest me, but it always has, and now that ownership has become a comfortable thing, a machined metal dou dou, morally reprehensible but comfort needs to be found. The great reprobate and man above moral reproach knew about gun ownership. Picasso owned a Browning. It would have been the Browning model 1900. It was the most popular semi-automatic in Europe at that time, three quarters of a million were produced. Picasso's Browning pistol has become a thing of legend, how exactly he came by it is unclear but it's pedigree is not.
The carrying of guns was not uncommon at the turn of the century. Europe was brimming with political turmoil, political refugees and activists, marxists, anarchists, all swelling the populations of the capital cities. Everywhere the old order was being challenged. I had an agitating antecedent, John Westley, who attended the International Socialist Workers Congress in Paris in 1889. He dallied with anarchists, and may not have toted a pistol but he had a penchant for a bomb. Artists, writers, playrights, politicos all were looking for a new way, and leading the charge in Paris on his bicycle was Alfred Jarry.
The young symbolist writer was a true romantic, one of the most influentional writers of his time, his work prefigured Dada and Surrealism. Controversy trailed him, an erratic lifestyle, fuelled by drugs and alcohol he became a legendary figure in his own short lifetime. He carried a Browning, sometimes a pair, and was given to discharging them to great and dramatic effect. Apollinaire, Salmon and Max Jacob were acolytes and Picasso was an ardent admirer.
One version of the story has Picasso at Jarry's death buying one of the pistols. The version according to Max Jacob is that Jarry made a gift of a pistol to Picasso. Jacob sees this as Jarry passing on the torch to Picasso, that's the version we want. Picasso carried on the pistol touting tradition, blasting away to great effect. I often find myself reflecting on the careers of obviously hugely talented artists who fail to make it out of the third, fourth, fifth divisions and wonder how their careers would have progressed, had they spent some time careering around the night time city with a Browning in one hand and their bits in the other. Oops, I suppose that could be classed as a Munning's moment!
AGED AND AWKWARD