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Jan Steen, Woman At Her Toilet (1660)





It is about putting on the stocking like ripping off the flesh on the leg. The elastic material clings onto her leg, like pesterer that refuses to give up his pursuing, however much obstacles he has encountered along his difficult journey. Maybe a mosquito is happened to be entrapped in that stocking, and suddenly, when waking up from his momentary daze, he finds himself landed on this foreign terrain, which is populated with nothing special but occasional cracks and sparse bushes. The mosquito has no more the driving urge of bloodthirstiness left in him. He is no longer young, no, and his wings are wilting and losing its youthful spark. So he trudges on with much difficulty on this vast terrain, burning with this sole intent of his final pilgrimage: that to find a cosy place so he can lie down his wearied body. It is every elder’s ultimate desire to enter the Big Sleep, and to luxuriate in that sweet stupefaction, which is growing more and more intense every counting second, as he smiles a wan smile and sees line between land and sea gradually blur.

The little dog knows nothing about the aged mosquito as he sleeps soundly on the mistress’s bed. Maybe he possess within him some parts of the mistress’s psyche. Even likelier the little dog is the mistress, after one unaccountable and confusing transposition, but still retaining the features and habits of a fluffy creature. She enjoys surveying her poky room through the eyes of the little dog, which are placid and uncontaminated like the lake when the world is yet populated. She knows nothing beyond the four walls and she wants to see no other rooms beside hers. Contentment comes easy. The curtains are imbued with different shades of green which appeal to her, yet at the same time she is tickled by something so amusing that she unleashes an uncontrollable fit of laughter. What she discovers is a shadow, presumably an imprint of hers, which leaps in accordance with the ripples of the curtains. Silhouette. Every living thing is no more but a silhouette.

The chair stands like a lonely warden on a distant planet who waits daily and patiently for someone to take him home. He can still recall, faint though his memory has become, the day when he was pronounced his first death. Never once in his life would he dream of becoming the subject of some unnamed painter’s masterpiece. The painter stopped his heartbeat by rendering him a goblet of blinding yellow against the background of scarlet forest. From that day on whoever sees the abstruse painting talks of a heated contest between those two fires, both threatening to engulf the other, and neither is that easily subjugated by another’s imminent victory. Being revived years later, when, after countless futile attempts that attested to his failure of rekindling the painter’s exceptional artistry, the chair is again back to his familiar earthiness. Often he will comfort himself, his philosophical mind travels far out of the bounds of this shabby room.

And so an arch is appearing, sooner followed by a wall, all built by bricks materialising like drops of rain that leak from the roof. Henceforth the lady decides to sing, to sing a song with a melody that meanders like white smoke in a dark night. Positioning the last brick on its niche I can still hear her singing, thrumming like the drone of a drum, like a nameless creature prisoned in a room cordoned off by numerous labyrinthine corridors, forgotten by time and people. Distantly but distinctly I can still hear her sing.

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