ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe

sardine and eggs

c. 1941

Watercolour. 8¾ x 6¾in. (22.3 x 17.3cm.) (ss) Provenance NT. Exhibited London, The Leicester Galleries, 1941, no. 33. This painting, portraying the male genitalia as still life, is a male equivalent of Tree Anatomy (1942). The effect, however, is very different. Here, the penis is depicted as a small fish, trussed up in a net-like string bag that also serves as scrotum, containing the two eggs/testicles. The objects hang, like sporting trophies. What a wonderful heraldic device they would make! However, it is more than just a visual pun: alchemically, it fuses the male with the female. Testicles are uniquely male and eggs are uniquely female. Colquhoun has united the genders in a single form. Part metaphor, part double-image, part sadistic revenge on the male surrealists’ enthusiasm for dismembering the female body, is there anything less potent than a dead sardine?