“Following further investigations, including tests in an archaeometry laboratory, it was discovered that layers of binding agent and a layer of dirt existed between the image of Cupid and the overpainting. The conservators concluded that several decades would have passed between the completion of one layer and the addition of the next and therefore concluded that Vermeer could not have painted over the Cupid himself.”
Statement issued by the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, Germany, upon unveiling Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl Reading Letter at a Window’ fully restored to reveal a previously-hidden painting within the background
Don’t tell me I’ve got my facts wrong. Or fall to the fallacy of Freud, imagining only sons can threaten a father’s throne, or evoke a mother’s passion. I know a hero’s plotline when I’m born into one.
The Sphinx first tipped me off. I had come with a riddle of my own: What is happening to the babies? My princely brothers each disappearing as suddenly as he arrived, my mother’s arms empty as her belly again flat. “Oracles can be misheard,” the Sphinx said, with a shrug and rustle of her wings, “or misbelieved. Daughter, son, child who shall—“ She bent to sniff my offering: half a lunchtime pb-and-j and a handful of goldfish crackers, then lipped one cracker and crunched it, open-mouthed. “What oracles don’t? Is misspeak. Gotta listen with the same precision.”
I left her growling happily over my sandwich, lion’s tail curled around her paws like a housecat. Considered carefully her words. Came to a decision. Plotted my next moves. A culmination years in the making.
“He loves power. A terrible love.” —Euripedes, Iphigenia at Aulis
The day the great king sacrificed his child for favorable winds in recompense for some gravid deer killed in a sacred grove; —or perhaps the clean calculus of men with swords already thirsty, still a long voyage to Troy and wasn’t it her aunt who started this whole mess in the first place bitch Helen with her dimpled thighs so easily and so widely hinged;
those clustered close at the scaffold’s base would later swear: with dying breath came not the feared but looked-for curse. Her only words, “I’m sorry.”
Dutiful, claimed royal hangers-on long accustomed to the eldest girl’s guilty proclamations. Her contrition for being too loud, too soft too much, too little too argumentative, too acquiescent too beautiful, too plain. For the unset place when guests arrived unannounced. For the household’s every unexpressed desire left untended-to.
“Eurydice, dying now a second time, uttered no complaint against her husband. What was there to complain of, but that she had been loved?” — Ovid, Metamorphoses
Disregard what poets tell you. They hear the thump of their own hearts and think they have discovered a universe. Or presume that my beloved, musician to the gods who never flubbed an entrance in his life, might in eagerness miscount the beats remaining to lift his wife back out of death. Turn for me too soon, an accident.
You living march toward darkness like a parade, joyous and cacophonous and blind. Whereas I have already worn my shroud. And I have already tasted ashes. The sunlight you steep in cannot thaw bones already chill with such fore-knowledge.
See the truth. In his final triumphant crescendo, Orpheus heard a single word fall from my mouth like a stone: