A bouquet of prosetry

Vosmaer: A Vase with flowers – some time before 1870 it was trimmed on the sides and top, cropping the crown imperial.
“The picture tells you how to arrange the words and the arrangement of the words tells you, or tells me, what's going on in the picture.”― Joan Didion "Why I write" (1976)

I don’t know what I think until I write it downand now I come to do so my first reaction is that whoever cut off the head of Jacob Vosmaer’s imperial crown lily is an oaf, a barbarian, or perhaps even an anti-monarchist. Decapitating royalty is not novel but surely Fritillaria imperialis courts reverence rather than regicide, masquerading as a coronet of butterflies with folded wings, sipping bell-like in a ring of tangerine or sulphur.

Perhaps the vandal trimmed the picture to fit a frame without consideration for the inference on the artist’s integrity. Being cut off from viewing that fabulously exotic bouquet in its vital negative surrounds, we are left with the impression that Vosmaer’s talent lay solely in an exquisite photo-realism of blooms garnered from the height of Holland’s trade with the East.

Yet I’m an analyst and must not be misled by the literal. There is meaning in the deliberate narrowing of perspective, symbolic of the age and context of this 19th century vandalism. Protestation is afoot and there in the double entendre is the clue:-

Calvinists expressing liberty in oils
urbane landscapes, simple portraiture
versus flowers fetched from the Ottomans – blood boils
with crimson opulence when nativity is laid so bare
out of this unctuous humility a serpent uncoils

there’s a slinking lizard under the red satin bloom
foxy sly corruption of the Imperial lily
these tears of Mary once dripped sweet perfume
nard from alabaster jars that wet the wanderer’s feet
unguents reserved for stench of tomb

bible epics were coated in vermillion and a blue so rare
only saints could wear lapis which now adorn strange shells
and flora of foreigners whilst faith is fashioned in dinner ware
sober shadows surround a simple soul, a loaf of bread
a beam of light and unadorned hands closed in prayer

what rage cropped the sides and toppled the fritillary
a reductionist act more symbolic than sanguinary

©Laura Granby 2016

Thanks to Play It Again Toads for the picture prompt and resurrecting the Imaginary Garden’s archive of Didion’s “The Poetry in a quote”. I’ve used her “I don’t know what I think until I write it down” as prompt but also prefaced this ‘prosetry’ with a longer extract as it echoes well with the butchered Vosmaer

28 thoughts on “A bouquet of prosetry

  1. Your “flora of foreigners” and the obvious privilege accorded the “religious” both resonate with me. Yes, whoever lopped the top off that painting should be ashamed! I’ve often wondered about the ownership of art, in that the owners (the affluent) rarely seem to possess a true appreciation of art. Thanks, Laura. This is wonderful. Amy

    1. thanks for your comments Amy – What struck was the sombre Dutch masters in which only the floral still life was given to extravagant colour – also suggested tensions of faith in the art world – as in this period of “pillarisation” [I had to look up so many things just to write this prosetry 😉 ]

  2. Such a clever close, especially, though the whole thing is delightfully well-wrought. Your rhymes and words generally are so well chosen and have such great sound. One thinks of selling paintings by the foot–here the new frame must have been very small indeed–so strange. You know, it’s different but I recently saw a show at the new Met Breuer that was of unfinished work–that was super striking though–and is quite different as it is clearly unfinished, not just cut off spatially. Thanks much. k.

  3. Reminds me of the wild marijuana plants in Nebraska, come summer they all have their tops lopped off. Of course, then dried and smoked. Back in my days we waited until fall to smoke the dried weeds. I never did smoke the marijuana weeds.
    Your “I don’t know what I think until I write it down” process reminds of Mrs. Jim’s shopping motto, “I don’t know what I need until I see it.”
    Lastly I love hearing about the lizard lurking amongst the blooms. It sounds scary but I generally find one of those guys in our garden.

    1. that’s quite a leap of association Jim. I guess the lizard underpins the exotic nature of the flora to a dutchman

    1. not the profoundest of statements but have to also admit that I had not read Didion til this prompt 😮

    1. lapis too expensive to paint any but the holy or as a feature as in the girl with the pearl earring! these blues probably azurite. thank you Beth for such encouraging words re my ‘prosetry’ painting!

    1. that’s a relief – thought I had misunderstood. It was really enjoyable going through the IGWT archives and what a good idea not to have archive posts just left to moulder in the past

  4. My, my. “Decapitating royalty is not novel but surely Fritillaria imperialis courts reverence rather than regicide, masquerading as a coronet of butterflies with folded wings, sipping bell-like in a ring of tangerine or sulphur.” I could feast on that sentence all week long and not grow tired of it. Your writing is amazing and evocative. I’m glad I found your blog. I can’t wait to explore more when I have time!

    1. mutual feeling 🙂 found you via Bryan Hemming and what a wonderful range of writing you have

  5. I came back when I had more time to enjoy this prosetry….interesting musings on a painting reduced to half its beauty by some uncaring fool who knew no better. And your poetry once again is sumptuous in its imagery.

    1. not sure how I missed your comment Donna but thank you and we gardeners know better than to decapitate such sensational Spring lilies –

    1. had previously visited exhibition of the Dutch floral masters at the National gallery so was inspired – had forgotten all about this one and enjoyed the re-visit to the archives for Toads’ anniversary 🙂

  6. I think the oaf who cut off the flowers should be decapitated as well. Maybe he thought royalty should lose their heads. Sumptuous prose/poem here. So much to read and enjoy.

    1. Case of picture made to fit frame methinks but the painting is a sumptuous subject for poetry so thank you

  7. Such exquisite imagery in this, Laura 🙂 especially; “bible epics were coated in vermillion and a blue so rare only saints could wear lapis which now adorn strange shells and flora of foreigners whilst faith is fashioned in dinner ware sober shadows surround a simple soul, a loaf of bread a beam of light and unadorned hands closed in prayer.”

feedback is food for thought....

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s