Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Renoir's Declaration

Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. (Plutarch)

Irène: A Portrait

Mademoiselle Irène Cahen d’Anvers, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1880

She looks complaisant, with her dainty hands
demurely on her lap. Red hair cascades
below her waist. Her countenance demands
one disregard the backdrop’s somber shades

to focus on the eyes, the vacant gaze,
the incandescent skin, the perfect nose,
the brow she has a tendency to raise,
perhaps in mild impatience with the pose.

And then, there is the mouth – the winsome curve,
a smile almost incongruously sly.
But now let’s take a closer look. Observe:
Irène will bear two offspring who will die,

one in the downing of his fighter plane,
one of Zyklon B at Auschwitz.
Not yet sophisticated, cool, urbane,
in blissful ignorance the young girl sits.

Renoir declared that art must aim to trace
the pleasant, pretty side of life; and with
a stroke of genius, turned a poker face
into an icon in the realm of myth.

by Catherine Chandler (first published in FutureCycle Poetry, June 2008)

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