Guest book

Title: Portrait of a Carthusian, Artist: Petrus Christus (Netherlandish, Baarle-Hertog (Baerle-Duc), active by 1444–died 1475/76 Bruges)
Date: 1446, Medium: Oil on wood, Dimensions: Overall 11 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (29.2 x 21.6 cm); painted surface 11 1/2 x 7 3/8 in. (29.2 x 18.7 cm)
Classification: Paintings, Credit Line: The Jules Bache Collection, 1949, Accession Number: 49.7.19
You came in
I watched you
You looked at me
I saw you
You came closer
I felt you

You looked closer
I touched you

I wonder who made you
Petrus Christus made me 
Title: Woman with a Parrot, Artist: Gustave Courbet (French, Ornans 1819–1877 La Tour-de-Peilz)
Date: 1866, Medium: Oil on canvas, Dimensions: 51 x 77 in. (129.5 x 195.6 cm)
Classification: Paintings, Credit Line: H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Accession Number: 29.100.57
You mean all those dressed people?
Nah, they were boring
Title: Self-Portrait, Artist: Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam)
Date: 1660, Medium: Oil on canvas, Dimensions: 31 5/8 x 26 1/2 in. (80.3 x 67.3 cm)
Classification: Paintings, Credit Line: Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Accession Number: 14.40.618
The youth of today
Doesn’t pay attention
As did not-todays youth

Their day watch
A mess
They’re worth painting though
Title: The Wood Sawyer, Artist: Charles E. Weir (American, 1823–1845)
Date: 1842, Culture: American
Medium: Oil on board, Dimensions: 22 1/4 × 18 1/4 in. (56.5 × 46.4 cm)
Framed: 29 7/8 × 25 5/8 in. (75.9 × 65.1 cm)
Credit Line: Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, 2018, Accession Number: 2018.6
Today brought many free people
Just like me

Dressed up for leisure
As I will be
Next Sunday

In enjoyed your laughter
Thanks for dropping by!
Title: Pes-Ke-Le-Cha-Co, Artist: Henry Inman (American, Utica, New York 1801–1846 New York)
Date: 1832–33, Culture: American
Medium: Oil on canvas, Dimensions: 30 × 25 in. (76.2 × 63.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Gerald and Kathleen Peters, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary, 2018
Accession Number: 2018.501.2
Gratitude, Crystal Echo Hawk 
Skee-Haru-Ha-Tawa, Kitkehaki Band, Pawnee
For mentioning the dignity and strength 
of the Pawnee people 
For honouring the strenght of our Pawnee leaders
And for protecting our people today
Respect for family, 
Responsibility for the land
Our obligation to do right by the next generation 
We share strength, innovation, beauty, and resiliency
I see you
A fearless warrior

Title: Mäda Primavesi (1903–2000), Artist: Gustav Klimt (Austrian, Baumgarten 1862–1918 Vienna)
Date: 1912–13, Medium: Oil on canvas, Dimensions: 59 x 43 1/2 in. (149.9 x 110.5 cm)
Classification: Paintings, Credit Line: Gift of André and Clara Mertens, in memory of her mother, Jenny Pulitzer Steiner, 1964, Accession Number: 64.148
Truth or dare?
The dress is mine
Though I’d rather wear pants
Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian, Florence ca. 1406–1469 Spoleto) Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement, ca. 1440 Tempera on wood; 25 1/4 x 16 1/2 in. (64.1 x 41.9 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Marquand Collection, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1889 (89.15.19)
To all the lovers
who kissed
in front of us

May your love
last as long
as ours
Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (French, Paris 1755–1842 Paris) Comtesse de la Châtre (Marie Louise Perrette Aglaé Bontemps, 1762–1848), Later Marquise de Jaucourt, 1789 Oil on canvas; 45 x 34 1/2 in. (114.3 x 87.6 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Jessie Woolworth Donahue, 1954 (54.182)
They didn’t look
like royalists to me
Hopefully tomorrow
the crowd will be better

Today’s prompt blew me away. First because of the incredible Spoon River Anthology we were introduced to. How I wish I’d written that! Please do click on the link, it leads you to this brilliant book, free to read online. It’s from 1915, but I don’t think it will ever wear.

Being some much in awe, I tried to figure out what I love so much about this book that consists of well over 100 poetic monologues, each spoken by a person buried in the cemetery of the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois. What makes it so exciting? There’s a strange reversal going on. The town is made up, but it reveals the true lives of people instead of their masks. The fictive persons are dead, but the poem brings them alive. The concrete little snippets tell a big story about us, the people…

And then I had to write something myself. The prompt suggested to “write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead.” But I wasn’t willing to compete with Edgar Lee Masters. So I tried to come up with something different. A reversal that would make sense in a way. Or reveal something, or bring something alive…

That’s how I ended up with this guest book, where the paintings write the messages instead of the visitors. It was SO much work. To choose which paintings to use, from The Met open access collection. To download and annotate. To put them on here… and do the writing too.
I would have loved to create a lay-out that was an actual guest book. Alas, I’m tired, I want to share this with you, and I want to read your pieces. So I call it a day, and hope you enjoy!

One last thing. I’d like to point out that The Met has a page called:

Native Perspectives

Contemporary Native artists and historians have been invited to respond to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Euro-American works in the American Wing’s collection. They present alternative narratives and broaden our understanding of American art and history. It’s well worth a look. You’ll notice that my ‘guest book entry’ for Pes-Ke-Le-Cha-Co draws from the words provided by Crystal Echo Hawk, a citizen of the Pawnee Nation, and advocate for the rights of Native peoples.

10 thoughts on “Guest book

  1. Manja Mexi Mexcessive

    Ohhh, Angela, you surpassed all the expectations anybody could have about this prompt. These are just glorious! And what a great idea to begin with! The boring dressed people must be the favourite. 😀

    I got the book from another link, this one is not working for me. Great to hear that it’s so good, I’ll read it in due time. For now it spurred me into a villanelle that combines two verses from two pieces I’ve always loved, by Mr. Wilde and Mr. Cohen.

  2. Dawn D. McKenzie

    Angela… I LOVE your take on the prompt!
    Mine in comparison is… boring! Though it was what I needed to write today, and I am thankful for having done it, as it comes to close on decades of hurt and helped me realise some things as I was writing. I hope it helps my friend as much as it did me.
    But your take is… it’s lively, it’s exuberant, it’s smart and whimsical, it’s perfect!
    As for the link about the Native Americans… I am doubly thankful, as I am working on this and I know these portraits were made as a way to continue to propagate the Frontier Myth and ‘show’ to the good whites just how wild and inferior Natives were. It’s a good thing to have a different perspective now added to the exhibition.

    1. Angela van Son Post author

      This is how the portrait’s page on the website writes about the piece:

      Inman painted portraits of Native Americans in preparation for the production of hand-colored lithographs for Thomas L. McKenney’s “The History of the Indian Tribes of North America” (1836–44). These leaders had originally been painted from life by Charles Bird King, when invited to Washington by the U.S. government and greeted by President James Monroe in 1822. King’s portraits were destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian Institution in 1865, while Inman’s series was shown in major cities from New York to London. Pes-Ke-Le-Cha-Co, Chief of the Pawnees, who wears a striking silver peace medal, is presented as a strong leader, celebrated at the time as “a firm, determined man, an expert hunter, and fearless warrior.”

  3. Pingback: To make live Ibi | Unassorted stories

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