In a comment left on the original porpoise post, Jordan revealed that Renee Erickson and Jeremy Price (the founders and owners of Sea Creatures, a restaurant and hospitality group that includes places like The Walrus & The Carpenter) commissioned her to paint this portrait. It's inspired by a photoshopped image found on the internet, which she painted while binging Gilmore Girls. She says she hadn't used oil paint in a while, but, to me, it's excellent, excellent work. Emotional, as I’ve said previously. Kitschy. Silly. Perfect.
However, the internet always finds a way to take away momentary joy. As many commenters pointed out, the regalia adorning the sea mammal does not indicate that he’s a general but an admiral. Though they are equivalent ranks, a general is in the Army and an admiral in the Navy. Furthermore, someone alleged that it's not a porpoise—but a dolphin. For those of you unaware of the difference, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lays it out like this:
“Dolphins tend to have prominent, elongated ‘beaks’ and cone-shaped teeth, while porpoises have smaller mouths and spade-shaped teeth. The dolphin’s hooked or curbed dorsal fin…also differs from the porpoise’s triangular dorsal fin. Generally speaking, dolphin bodies are leaner, and porpoises’ are portly.”
OK—say I were to take these concerns with the utmost sincerity and seriousness. Let’s start with the second claim: that this is in fact a dolphin NOT a porpoise. Since we can only see the sea creature from the waist up and they are facing the front, there’s really no way we can speak to its portliness nor its dorsal fin situation. And due to the impressionistic quality of the painting style and the shortened perspective, it’s too difficult to discern whether or not the beak is elongated or the cone/spade nature of the teeth. It also has two goddamn arms. So, I can say this confidently, for all intents and purposes, this is a porpoise.
And now to the general and admiral claim. The “scrambled eggs” (the nickname for the golden oak leaf embellishments found on the bills of dress hats) on this porpoise’s hat reveal its status as an admiral, not a general. To which I say, fine. But, on some level, I do find the genuine concern about the veracity of military regalia on an improbable portrait of a sea creature who, to my knowledge, does not have the ability to participate in the Navy, not to mention the ability to lead one, a little aggravating. So this is an Admiral Porpoise. The pun is now ruined!
There’s something to be said about how context is really everything in our interpretation of art. Had this portrait been commissioned for the halls of say, a military museum, it would be much more of an obvious mistitling. But its context within a doughnut shop called “General Porpoise,” I, as a civilian, immediately understood this portrait is a play off the name. But fine. I showed my ass in not knowing military rank. And now I'm stuck thinking about how the improbability of a porpoise leading a naval fleet is a jump, but to have it leading an army is an even bigger one.
No word yet on whether or not the cafe plans on updating the portrait with the proper regalia. In the meantime, go admire it over coffee and a doughnut.