Madame Rimsky-Korsakov

I felt addled all day. Madame Rimsky-Korsakov. Who was she? Wife of the famous composer, Nicoli Rimsky-Korsakov, yes. But I want more.

The psychic said that I was meant to see that painting and that whomever I was with when I saw it (I didn’t tell her I was with anyone, she just knew) was my soul mate. But not my only soul mate, she was quick to qualify. Interestingly enough, I was with GP, indeed my soul mate at one time.

She also said that the woman in the painting, Madame R-K had unfinished business in that life with the man who painted that painting (my ancestor, Franz Xaver Winterhalter). Winterhalter, it turns out, never married (I learned this on Wikipedia), but proposed once and was turned down.

Here is a poem, written by James Ragan, that surmises what this connection might be. Indeed, this poet saw the portrait in the same museum that I did and felt compelled to articulate the relations between artist and muse.

Madam Rimsky-Korsakov Peinture at the Musee d’Orsay
by James Ragan

Her hand at the left breast clutching
locks of brown curls, Winterhalter
must have mourned to send it there,
his own, a brush in paint
regretting loss as too familiar.

He would rather part the fingers, each lithe stroke
a stranger teasing hair, unsexed, just so.
If only he could creep behind the canvas,
not to memorize which brown the eyes,

which green, which light magenta
most improves an unapproving face,
but to brood; could he undo the blue
ribbon where the heart lives? Or breathe
soft hues against the white lace?

He would stall the flow of resignation
each brow permits to spill into her eyes,
where the bodice heaves beneath in rhythms
long and quiet, breath would part the space.

Watch how jealousy’s soft green feather
swells her husband’s brow,
one eye traveling notes along the scale,
the other down her hair
to where the hand creates a rose.

If only he could undo the eyes’ imagined veil,
languid where the soul dies
or mirror her thoughts
in the rush of a rising scherzo,

he would bare her breasts
to each eye’s passing,
hurried once as tourists do,
now returned with voyeur passion.
If only he could father lust as inspiration.

To what picture at the exhibition should he turn?
When they creep behind the camera lens,
is it out of shame for having framed his wife,
undressed, a lover in their found imaginations?

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