Ekphrastic Poetry by Denise O’Hagan: After Alexandrine, maybe

After Alexandrine, maybe

Blu-tacked to the kitchen wall
The paper holding you is starting to curl,
Ghost of a long-ago, far-away soul. 

Your poise has teased us through centuries,
From a bust carved in original marble 
Through a bevy of terracotta look-alikes
Counterfeited in countless art studios
By slick-eyed, eager apprentices,
Rendering you, in each process,
A shade more indistinct.

A solitary finger of a plait
Leads our gaze down to yours
But you’ve lowered your eyes,
Your lips spell dissent, and we realise,
As the snake of suspicion bites, that this
Is no eighteenth-century childish deference,
And that beneath your well-bred hauteur 
Lie the seeds of defiance.

Had you shrugged off a governess’s request,
Shirked a soirée, flounced off from Madame?
Had they told you you’d be off to the convent?
Or were you simply on the edge of a tantrum
For quite another reason?

Speculation still laps at your edges
Spawning fascination and theories,
Muddying our modern thirst for
Hard-edged, unassailable fact.

Yet with petulance pencilled
Into the swell of your cheek,
And that perfect pout,
You’ve snared a feeling
In every grown-up child
Who recalls only too well 
When their biggest rebellion
Was to sulk.

After French sculptor Jacques Saly (1717–76) whose bust of a young girl made in Rome (c. 1744) was much copied. Speculation as to her identity endures, one theory being that ‘La Boudeuse’ (she who sulks) was Alexandrine d'Etoilles, nicknamed ‘Fanfan’ (daughter of Mme de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV), who died at nine years of age in the Convent of the Assumption. This sketch by Dominic West (2019) is based on a reproduction.
First published in The Ekphrastic Review, 28 April 2021

Artist: Jacques Saly. Title of artwork: A young girl. Medium (of original): Marble.

Author bio

Denise O’Hagan is an award-winning editor and poet, born in Rome and based in Sydney. With a background in commercial book publishing in London and Sydney, she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, in 2015 to assist independent authors. Recipient of the Dalkey Poetry Prize, her work appears in various journals including The Copperfield Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Quadrant, Books Ireland, Eureka Street and Hecate. Her second poetry collection, Anamnesis, is due to be published in October 2022 (Recent Work Press).
Denise O’Hagan Home

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to feversofthemind@gmail.com. Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1

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