James G. Mundie - Drawing Gallery



James G. Mundie - painting gallery

James G. Mundie - drawing gallery

James G. Mundie - print gallery

Kate Kern Mundie

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The Bathers

"The Bathers" is copyright © 1998 by James G. Mundie. All rights reserved.  Reproduction prohibited.

pen and ink drawing, 9 x 7 inches, 1998
Collection of Geoff Hindle

The subjects of this portrait are Chang & Eng Bunker, the eponymous "Siamese Twins." Chang & Eng were born in 1811 to Chinese parents in the country now known as Thailand. As babies, the twins escaped a death sentence imposed upon them by King Rama II, who believed they were an ill omen. The twins later gained sufficient royal favor to act as ambassador to Cochin China for Rama II's successor. Chang & Eng were brought to Boston by an enterprising American sea captain in 1829, and proceeded to exhibit themselves in the United States and Europe for many years before retiring as wealthy slave-owning planters in ante-bellum North Carolina. The twins became naturalized American citizens, adopted the surname Bunker, married a pair of sisters, and proceeded to father twenty-one children between them. Financially ruined in the wake of the Civil War, the twins returned to show business to regain what they had lost.

Conjoined twins inspire a particular fascination, which I believe is due in part to one's notions of privacy. It is the salacious details that interest people most. "How do they use the rest room?" and like questions are foremost, because for conjoined twins every mundane bodily function or private romantic encounter is a group effort.

The inspiration for this portrait was two-fold: that curious and famous painting attributed to the School of Fontainebleau, sometimes called Portrait of the Beautiful Gabrielle and the Maréchale de Balagny; and the plaster death cast of Chang & Eng house at the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. So, here we have Chang & Eng sharing a "private" moment in the tub where — just as with those enigmatic French sisters — Eng is playfully tweaking his brother's nipple; yet despite the high spirits, both wear the mournful expression they invariably presented for the camera.

[To see more drawings from this series, please visit the Prodigies website at missionCREEP.com]

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All Images and Text © James G. Mundie 2005