Skip to main content

A Portrait



(Frans Hals, Catharina Hooft with her Nurse)

Hand, delicate like a bud stippled with spring dew, gently brushing off an apple- an equanimous dismissal of so radiant a temptation. For her heart is flooded with extreme merriment, such merriment that is ineffable for whatever form of expressions. I stare into the front, rigid my facial expressions into sheer solemnity and at pains to contain my fizzy exuberance. Why the stiffness of the dress always impedes the outburst of my inner joy?

She is told to reduce her smile into a mere smirk, as conforming to the ever-celebrated tradition of portraiture. I take yet another sigh of impatience and waiting for another flash of light, exploding straight before my face. My nurse holds an apple and is told to stage a performance of offering me the prop. I, doubtlessly, am supposed to convince the viewers that a reject of the apple is retorted. My nurse bundles through the dumb show, while I, being as adept as a good actor can be, fail to reveal any discomfort, except the slight droop of an eye.

Somebody prisoned her in a portrait, and forgot it altogether somewhere high above the mantelpiece. Viewers, you are not permitted to touch or hold but simply to possess the picture with your eyes. Your eyes of exuding lustiness penetrate not of my heart, which is callous and impassive like a mountain which is ever immobile. The spikiness of my adornment ironically parallels with my heart, whose sole wish is to be locked in an impregnable fortification.

I opted to be put in a portrait, I am obliged to say so without any tinge of regrets. They took away my soul and terminated my life for the sake of perpetual beauty, but they could hardly take away my gaze, which is now transfixing on you as sharp as the slant of light on a snowy morning, truncating a block of ice and leaving no vestige of clemency. This gaze shares the perpetuity of the preserved beauty.

Does her gaze show any hints of wanton entreatment? Some stared at the portrait so long that they felt they were drawn into it unconsciously. Some said her innocence was like a rose poising on a snow-encrusted street- the only thing endearing in comparison with the palpable dismalness. The viewers were thus deluded by the illusive beauty displayed before them. And the frozen portrait burns, like a fire visible in a darkened room, and a flame of blue it flickers.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Honore Daumier

“If you shut up truth and bury it under ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.”- Émile Zola
Exited HonorĂ© Victorin Daumier, 10 February 1879, in an impoverishment that many of his contemporaries, especially his foes, would have thought was his long overdue retribution- the painter was blind, heavily in debt, and later relegated to a pauper’s grave. His friends, upon visiting his resting place, would, I imagine, see it a chance to admonish their children: “Now that’s a lesson for you cheeky devils whose tongues rattle off things that should better stay unspoken.” But Daumier devoted his life in revealing those “unspoken things.” His lithography ink proved sharper than most writers’ pens. He vented his rage and stigmatised others’ infamy in his satirical and, oftentimes, side-splitting cartoons. The tone was relentlessly acerbic but only because Daumier was exposing truths that, in the time…

Paintings in Proust: Vesuvius Erupting by J.M.W. Turner

In Proust’s Swann’s Way, the narrator’s grandmother is described as one who inculcates in her grandson a reverence for the “elevated ideals.” Infinitely disdainful of the mechanical nature of replica, when shown photograph of the magnificent Mount Vesuvius his grandmother dismisses it with a lofty query as of whether other more acknowledged artists did paintings of the volcano in the first place. She is having in mind the great J.M.W. Turner, whose depiction of Vesuvius in flame displays, in her view, “a stage higher in the scale of art.”
The enduring fascination with volcanoes was especially evident in the 19th century, which saw an irregularly high frequency of Vesuvius eruptions that, at the time, alarmed many of the imminent cataclysm that a thousand of years before destroyed the city of Pompeii. Turner, according to a number of sources, may not be amongst the first-hand witnesses of those eruptions, but badgered his geologist friends, John MacCulloch and Charles Stokes, for scien…

Review: Magnificent Obsession (1954)

Douglas Sirk once considered the essential elements of cinema: “Cinema is blood, is tears, violence, hate, death, and love.” In brief, cinema is everything with life; a life that is, nonetheless, constantly verging on the limits of human life. Such extreme case of existentialism that Sirk posits in his film is rather a point of departure for a more pressing concern: the feverish pursuit for self-autonomy, which is invariably negated by the primacy and the necessity of staying content within one’s own assigned space. A common trait with Sirk’s characters is this seething rebelliousness, either against the societal prejudices or one’s inner demons, that rages beneath an outward show of sense and urbanity; occasionally they are driven to the brink of despair, but always to be saved by their strength and an incurable sanguinity for the future. The state of defeat is rarely the conclusion to which they bow easily, regardless of how inevitable the circumstances have unravelled, and yet, too…