Oil and Wine

July 7, 2011
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I have this murderous task thrust upon me. A fate known from the beginning. Yet with my trained eyes, it still slipped away unseen.

My brushes, coated with dry paint. As she departed, the distinctions of light left my vision. I contained and isolated myself in the studio. I sat for hours; nothing was touched.
How am I to paint?

God forsaken child! Why must she take leave? Her absence has destroyed all progress in the painting. And yet, with her gone, I have never seen so clearly. Burnt ivory was once used to detail the dangerous curls that fell loosely from her head scarf. It lay upon the table she once cleaned.

I’ve looked upon this painting more times than I have been commissioned by Van Ruijven, since she left. I have no will power. No inspiration. I will weep, secretly, for the idea that has been lost. No camera obscura will help me see differently. The glass of the windows has been untouched for months; the light, dim. My eyes have yet to adjust, but I cannot paint anything in this room, not with her picture glaring at me.

I knew there was a feeling grabbing at the center of my heart when I began. I flushed it away for the concentration of this portrait. This portrait, my deepest devotion. Is it because of the colors wrapped together? The way the white on her pearl necklace is anything but? The visible blue, and pink, and purple, and yet, to the untrained eye, it is still white? Could it be the romantic gesture of her looking forward, on-going? A sensible man would not have allowed it, but the intimacy of it could not be avoided if it were to be a masterpiece. Even the way her hand was pressed upon the glass. The light, escaping between her fingers. It lit her eyes and the side of her mouth in a way that captured my attention longer than was decent.

If only I had known, if only I had taken the time to understand and see further than the painting. But alas! My final vow has gone unnoticed for she has gone herself, taking my heart and passion with her. What will I say to the others that depend upon my income as a painter? Shall I start another? For surely, it would be a catastrophe to throw my work away. I have yet to do such a horrible thing. Time and patience wasted. For nothing?

The thing I carried with me the longest after that was the memory of our time together. I’d tell her to put her hand down, take the necklace off, to sit, anything I felt, and she took it with the grace of an angel. How is there any possible way to overcome the overwhelming pain that I am being put through? And a married man at that! I knew from the moment we hired her, Catharina took notice of my slight fancy in the child. I appointed her my assistant however offensive it may be. Maria knew it would help me paint more rapidly, and she thirsted for the money that would be brought in.

The girl would be there before I was to supply the paint colors I requested; she would be up all night grinding the bone or lead that I required. Every afternoon, once her chores around the house were completed, she would stand at the very same window I am looking out of now, with her hand upon the glass. When it rained and no light shone through the panes, I would train her on how to see with her eyes. Not to look, but to see. See the way the light shone could change the color of a painting, or the position in which an object was placed made all the difference. I told her of how I’d paint a map on the wall one day, and the next, I replaced it with a clock. I’d say a necklace contained 29 pearls, but I would add 2 more after a week. I was even so bold enough to show her the camera obscura. She was frightened at first, but because she has the same eye as I do, she came to appreciate its sacred quality of repositioning and changing what others merely did not see.
“We will do anything to make the painting better,” I’d say.
And now she left, to accomplish her own goals in France. She received a letter only a fortnight ago from a painter by the name of Nicolas Poussin. I should have stopped her, continue her studies, but I would feel like a thief. I was the one robbed.
My conclusion was not to destroy the painting, though I could not continue, because I knew that it would destroy me in the same. I took her head scarf, and I draped it over the unfinished canvas, tucking it away in a small corner of the storeroom, hoping to take it out of my mind.

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SingleRose said...
Jul. 18, 2011 at 11:04 am
I like this a lot! It is very creative and I never would have thought about doing this point of view. I loved how you described the painting and the colors of the pearls. Good job!
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