The Eroticism of Fat Men
With the accusing of Michael Maybrick as the Whitechapel Murderer Jack the Ripper [They All Love Jack], it is interesting to look at Walter Sickert’s Ennui paintings, which famously were claimed by Sickert to contain the “supreme clue” as to the identity of Jack the Ripper [Source: Casebook. Though may I also direct readers to the excellent research of Ms Felicity J Lowde who most certainly does NOT agree with Bruce Robinson’s conclusions]. Focus was always put on the gull on the woman’s shoulder in the picture on the wall, with the intimation being that the woman was a young Queen Victoria and the gull was her surgeon Sir William Gull, who allegedly tortured & lobotomised Annie Crook in Guy’s Hospital, etc, etc. Now, however, looking at Michael Maybrick’s later photographs after he suddenly left London society to spend the rest of his life on the Isle of Wight, when apparently at the height of his fame and success as singer and songwriter, he does appear to look very similar to the man in Sickert’s painting.
So was this all along the “central clue” in the painting, the “supreme clue”? Sickert did 14 prepatory studies for Ennui in 1913-14 before completing the finished oil painting. Michael Maybrick died in August 1913. Sickert waited for Maybrick to die before starting to paint him and then later making the teasing remark that the painting contained the “central clue” to Jack the Ripper?
The picture never made sense before, if it was supposed to tell us that William Gull is the Ripper; in that case who is the man in the picture and why does he look so pleased with himself? Now it looks like Michael Maybrick has actually sat for this portrait, so close is the likeness. He has a twinkle in his eye as he looks at us, like he is laughing at us all for having got away with something. And Ennui indeed; one can imagine how boring his life was once the Free Masons told him he had to leave London behind and never come back, and so had to spend the rest of his life in the backwater of the Isle of Wight. After the highs of his killing frenzy in London, as well as the whirl of London high society, the club life, the Masonic life, how deathly dull his enforced “Imprisonment” on the Isle of Wight must have been.
One’s fanciful imagination can also see the pitcher of blood on the side, the way his cigarette leads straight into the glint of a knife on his wife’s belt, in the bottom of his glass of water the black upraised arm holding a knife about to slash. Once Maybrick died, perhaps Sickert was now free to give us his portrait of the Whitechapel Murderer in boring enforced retirement. Longing to go back to his high life in London, but banned by his Brother Masons from ever doing so.
The Free Masons had to conceal his identity at all costs, to stop “the furnace from blowing up”. The Masons’ control of all aspects of British state rule in the Victorian era would have been exposed, and blown to pieces. So they told him to go away from London and never come back?