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YOUNG GIRL BATHING by Auguste Renoir and Salvatore Buttaci

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YOUNG GIRL BATHING:

Painting by Auguste Renoir (1890)

Poem by Salvatore Buttaci (1994)


Not a stitch!  

Oh, if ma mere and mon pere could see me now!

Their little daughter naked as the day

she first saw the light.

Let me say Pa Pa would put enough of his belt to me

that no artist would ever care to paint me again.

 

I should tell you I am not a model.

Monsieur Renoir chose me 

from a crowd of giggling schoolgirls.

"You have a model's presence," he said.

"Who me?" I asked.

 

He smiled and touched my hair.

"Would you sit for me?" he asked.

 

Now my classmates began teasing me:

"Justine has a new beau! A new beau!

A new beau!"

But I pretended not to hear

and asked the man, "Sit for you?"

 

He laughed, still touching my hair.

"Yes!  Yes!  Sit for me!

I am the painter Renoir.

You have heard of me?

Well, no matter, child.

I wish to paint you.

Of course, I will pay,

more money than you've seen so far!"

 

He laughed again.

"I fear only that I will not find

the proper colors to paint your hair.

Red like fire? Orange as the sun?

Long as a cascading waterfall?

That will be the true test

of how good a craftsman I truly am!"

 

My hair. My hair. My hair.

You'd think it was a portrait

the monsieur was wanting to paint.

I was grateful. He was paying me,

and a model is not a woman of the streets,

is she now?  Well, is she?

 

"The human form is a thing of beauty,"

Monsieur Renoir said on that first day.

"A beauty to be captured for all time.

And the female form––a thirteen year old!

God's greatest masterpiece!"

 

"How much will I be paid?" I asked.

He reached into his pocket,

removed several francs from a billfold,

and handed them to me.

 

"Is this enough?" he asked 

as if he would give more were I to say no.

I nodded and pushed the bills

deep into my skirt pocket.

 

"Let us begin," said Monsieur Renoir.

"I shall call this painting

'Young Girl Bathing.'  

 

Bathing? It is autumn, Monsieur,

just too many months away from summer and--

"Bathing, Monsieur?"

 

"Yes, 'Young Girl Bathing,' of course.

Come with me, Justine.  

Here is my studio where I paint.

I have provided a backdrop for you--

a summer day at the beach.

You will sit on that tree stump.

First, let me lay down some white linen."

 

"But I have nothing to wear, Monsieur.

It is October. The summer is far away."

 

"Justine," he said, in the tone of voice

Pa Pa uses when he must repeat and repeat

what I do not understand.

"I am an artist, yes?

And an artist is one who paints?

Does he paint from his memory,

from some figment of his imagination?

No, no, of course not!

He employs a model whom he paints.

You, Justine, are my model today.

Painting your beauty, I will paint

'Young Girl Bathing.'

You need not be afraid or shy with me.

After all, child, I am a painter.

 

Oh, if my parents could have been there!

Not a stitch at all!

I asked to turn my face away,

to sit in such a way as to conceal

as much as I was able.

 

"With your left hand,

take hold of your long red hair.

Exactly! How beautiful!"

 

"Will someone buy this painting, Monsieur?"

I asked, trying not to upset my pose.

 

"Someone already has, my child.

An art collector in England."

 

England! I thought.

Ma mere and mon pere would never know!

I let myself sigh with much relief.

 

"Be still, child.  

You are a model now.

You must sit there perfectly still."

 

   #

 

 

 

The above poem first appeared in my book Impressions: 13 French-Painting Poems (Saddle Brook, NJ: New Worlds Unlimited), 18-21.

Salvatore Buttaci’s two collections of flash fiction 200 Shorts and Flashing My Shorts are both published by All Things That Matter Press and are available in book and Kindle editions at http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/sambpoet

His new book If Roosters Don’t Crow, It Is Still Morning: Haiku and Other Poems   http://tinyurl.com/76akl73  

Buttaci lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life. 

 

 

 

 

 

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