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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

Jan-u-wine's "At the Last", with an art manip based on a self-portrait by Michael Sweerts.

Posted on 2010.01.30 at 09:31
Tags: , , ,

This post features jan-u-wine's new poem, At the Last. It was written back in December, inspired by a manip made from a self-portrait by 17th-century Flemish painter, Michael Sweerts. Jan's beautiful, bitterweet poem follows the the manip.

The source painting.

Michael Sweerts was born in 1618 in Brussels, Belgium. By the age of twenty-eight, he was living in Rome and a member of the painters' academy there. Almost all of Sweerts's paintings date form his time in Rome. He painted religious and secular works, but is most noted for his life-like portraits. At thirty-eight, or by 1656, he returned to Brussels, where he founded an academy of drawing and joined the painters' guild. "Once returned from Italy, his work took on the influence of Vermeer, and his best paintings fully reveal the cool palette and classical simplification of forms hinted at in his earlier work," says the writer of the Artchive's entry. The self-portrait used for this manip is dated 1656, the year of his return.

Sweerts, a Catholic, became a lay brother in 1661, then travelled to Syria and Persia as a missionary. However, he had a number of disagreements with the brothers and was dismissed after two years. Nonetheless, he remained in the east and continued to paint. He ended up in Goa, India, where he died in 1664. He was only forty-six.

A bit more on Sweerts can be found at the Artchive website, here, and at the Getty Museum's site, here. These were my sources.

Michael Sweerts's beautifully reflective 1656 self-portrait:

The Manip: "Frodo Thinks Upon Elanor the Fair".

When I read "At the Last", I loved it, wanted to post it, and wanted my manip to complement it. In the poem, Frodo is writing his last entry in the Red Book, internally shifting gears, turning away from the person he has been and the Shire he has known, towards the person he might yet become and the land he has not yet seen. The poem opens with Frodo hearing Elanor's voice. He muses upon the child in which he delights, but whom he must leave. It is that moment I mean to illustrate.

To convey Frodo's opening mood, I chose a face from a cap from the FOTR cart scene with Gandalf. In the selected frame, Frodo's face has a hint of a smile, but there is also an element of wistfulness, even sadness. I wanted this for the manip. And although it was not intentional, in matching the hues and lighting of the screencap to that in Sweerts's painting, the area beneath Frodo's eyes took on a reddened look. I thought this worked well for the manip, suggesting a Frodo who, knowing the time has grown short, has been staying up night after night, working and writing and, perhaps, weeping.

Source for Frodo's face: cart scene with Gandalf in Fellowship.

Technical notes.

To make this piece, the primary challenge was to nuance into the painting a face and head held in a different manner from the original. Hand-work was necessary around the neck and collar, to accommodate the difference in pose. I also flipped the cap. My first draft used the original orientation. But flipping it, which changed the direction of Frodo's gaze, also changed the mood of the painting. Somehow it increased the sense of sad-smiling, musing contemplation that I was after. Also, as usual, I worked with the exposure, contrast and colour to get a better match between elements, as well as using layers of "eggshell crackle" to get a better match in surface texture for the imported face. Finally, I hand-painted in a lot of strands of hair, to better transition the imported head into its background.

Final Manip.

"Frodo Muses Upon Elanor the Fair" ~ full image.

"Frodo Muses Upon Elanor the Fair" ~ cropped enlargement.

At the Last

by jan-u-wine

It is quiet in my study,

flickering silence
keeping company

with the candle's
muted diminishment,

the small, soft music of Elanor
finding its gentle way
beneath the door.

I smile and rest myself
within the tender cradle
of distanc'd sound,

the fragile melody of her
sweetly imprinting itself
upon my memory.

Elanor the Fair.

*This* quill shall know
the touch of your hand,

*these* books,

your curious,
thorough-eyed regard.

The star-pointed rug
shall hold you safe

through a winter night's dreme-journey,
the hearth-fire

sigh with secrets
only you

might understand.

Oh, Elanor.

I will never

know you.

My heart stills
with the weight of this simple truth,

breath halting beneath the burden
of all that I shall,

(and all the sweet unknowns
that I must surrender,


I cannot


with surety,
I must.

For the last time,
my fingers

find the faded pouch,

the gold of Bilbo's signet
from the ordinary silver of my own....

for the last time,

hot and red as a blush'd apple,

upon ivory parchment,
is contained

within an initial'd circle.


For the last time, I write, after,

"of the Shire".

At last,
all is done.

At last,
I may rest.

Within the sweet-bitter

of memory,
beyond the edge of the world,

may I find,

at the last,
my rest.

Previous manip and poem:

~ Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp's 'Landscape With Cattle', plus jan-u-wine’s “The Road Back”, 1/14/10.

Other links:

~ Frodo Art Travesty LJ entries (manip presentations).

~ Album of all Frodo Art Travesties (images only—be sure to enlarge images after opening).

~ All entries featuring jan-u-wine's poems.

~ Mechtild


shirebound at 2010-01-30 18:20 (UTC) (Link)
You did a great job with that manip.

Oh my, this is one of Jan's most beautiful and poignant poems.
mechtild at 2010-01-30 19:23 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for reading and viewing, Shirebound. :) The poem really is splendid. And it demonstrates Jan's particular talents well.
(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2010-01-30 19:28 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Mews. *hugs you* Thank you. I went through a lot of screencaps, and made a number of working drafts before I chose that face. It's a very moving poem, I agree. Jan is so good at expressing powerful things that are difficult to articulate directly, by approaching them obliquely, as observed through everyday actions, objects and scenes. :)

Edited at 2010-01-30 07:28 pm (UTC)
telstar_gold at 2010-01-31 00:29 (UTC) (Link)
the small, soft music of Elanor
Just wonderful. Jan's gently reflective Frodo is perfectly matched by your pic. There's a sense of relief mixed with the sadness as he does these things for the last time. Lovely.
mechtild at 2010-01-31 03:51 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Telstar. I'm pleased you enjoyed the poem and illustration, and that you stopped in to say so. I have always hoped (and imagined) Frodo finding a beginning in this ending, leaving the life and people he has loved. No matter how grieved I imagine him, I can't help picturing a bit of hope flickering in his breast, that he really will come to the place -- literally and figuratively -- where his soul might be healed and his heart refreshed.
Lavender Took
lavendertook at 2010-01-31 01:00 (UTC) (Link)
The poem is painfully beautiful, and your lovely manip serves it well. *hugs you and Jan*

And yes, it's amazing what flipping the pic does to his expression, focusing it.

mechtild at 2010-01-31 03:52 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Lavender. It's a beaut, that poem, isn't it?

(I see Frodo's dressed for the weather. My, doesn't fur suit him!)
aussiepeach at 2010-01-31 04:25 (UTC) (Link)
Frodo looks so well in those period costumes and it's a great choice of face. Beautiful!
mechtild at 2010-01-31 04:52 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Peachy. Yes, Frodo looks wonderful in the costumes of many eras. I think he looks extra-great in black, which I would not have expected. But several of the paintings I've manipped have featured a subject wearing black, and Frodo's looked smashing in all of them. :)

Edited at 2010-01-31 04:53 am (UTC)
julchen11 at 2010-02-02 11:28 (UTC) (Link)
The manip is incredibly gorgeous. I stared at it for ages (it seems) and it made me think.
Jan's poem. It hurts so beautifully, so very very moving. It was hard to stop weeping.
It's how I always see Frodo - a little bit lost, sad but relieved. An ending can also be a new start and he's hoping for his little peace of heaven, isn't he?
Thank you so much, my dear friends, for this wonderful post. It simply made my day.

*hugs you both very very tight*
mechtild at 2010-02-02 14:28 (UTC) (Link)
"It's how I always see Frodo - a little bit lost, sad but relieved. An ending can also be a new start and he's hoping for his little peace of heaven, isn't he?"

Ah, yes. Thanks for stopping in, Julchen, especially when you are so pressed for time. If you get the chance, check out the link (under the poem in this entry) for "Previous manip and poem". Jan did another splendid job there, portraying post-Quest but coping Frodo walking around the Shire one day, taking in its beauties.
jan_u_wine at 2010-02-02 17:39 (UTC) (Link)

thank you so much, dear. It was so kind of you to comment when you've got so much on your plate.

take care!

love to you,
ext_213144 at 2010-02-02 18:51 (UTC) (Link)

At the last

A lovely poem! You can sense his love for Elanor and how even if he has to leave so soon, she will be part of his life and heart still. At least he got this glimpse and I love the idea of him resting within her music.

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie :)
mechtild at 2010-02-02 19:04 (UTC) (Link)

Re: At the last

Thank you, Anne Marie, for stopping by and commenting. Jan does beautiful work getting inside her characters and letting us see and feel what they do. And they feel so much! Jan also has a way of hearing music, the music of words, the music in sounds of everyday life, and regular music-music. :) I love the image of Frodo "resting within her music", too.
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2010-02-06 12:09 (UTC) (Link)
This is such a beautiful manip, Mechling. I do love pensive Frodo.

I smile and rest myself
within the tender cradle
of distanc'd sound,

the fragile melody of her
sweetly imprinting itself
upon my memory.



P.S.and all the sweet unknowns … These words remind me that there will come a time when there are new books and inventions, cures and discoveries, all kinds of wonders that I shall not be a part of. - I know I’m too nosey for my own good :)

mechtild at 2010-02-06 15:43 (UTC) (Link)
"These words remind me that there will come a time when there are new books and inventions, cures and discoveries, all kinds of wonders that I shall not be a part of. - I know I’m too nosey for my own good :)"

How much I resonate with what you have said, Estë. And how much it reminds me of what Bilbo recited in his aged song in Rivendell. First he sings of images remembered from the past, but these inform what he knows he will not live to experience:

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

I think it's one of the most beautiful poems in all of Tolken. But I think it may be that I'm getting to be the age to really appreciate it. :) There's a subdued but gorgeously evocative setting of this by the Tolkien Ensemble, the best version I've heard. Have you ever listened to it, Estë?

If you open "The Old Walking Song", #2, the singer is the same, also singing Bilbo here:


Or, if you can open a wma file (Windows Media Audio), I can send you a copy of Bilbo' Song as an attachment. I have the album it comes from downloaded into my computer files.

Did you see Jan's poem posted previous to this, "The Road Back"? I think you will enjoy it. It's a sort of ode to the Shire Frodo loves as he walks through it during a day. Perhaps you've already looked at it, if so, ignore this.


~ Mechtild

Edited at 2010-02-06 03:43 pm (UTC)
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2010-02-14 14:07 (UTC) (Link)
Happy Valentine’s Day Lass!

Thank you Mechling. What a treat that was. I would like to buy some of their music. But first I need to run into Mad Baggins "who used to vanish with a bang and a flash and reappear with bags of jewels and gold" :D

Did you know that, on ROTK EE DVD, the music accompanying the very last song, during the Fan Credits, is composed by Howard Shore as a final good-by to fans? The choir sings Bilbo’s aged song in Sindarin. It is beautiful.

I found the information at: http://www.amagpiesnest.com/source_songs/ROTK/SSbilbos_song.htm


mechtild at 2010-02-16 04:34 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for that link, Estë, and I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply.

I have long enjoyed listening to Shore's version of "I Sit Before the Fire and Think" that's on the "Complete Recordings" RotK. I had no idea, though, that it was composed with that intention -- that it is meant as a goodbye to fans. I think he was a bit premature, in light of "The Hobbit", hmmm? ;)

I am sorry the Tolkien Ensemble's CD's are so pricey, too. I downloaded most of what I have from copies borrowed from libraries. I listen to music on an MP3 player these days, so I have put even the CD's I already own onto the hard drive so I can load them into my little machine.

If you really like the music, I'd be happy to make a copy for you. I know you can't play a Region 1 film DVD, but maybe your computer would play a DVD with only audio files on it? A DVD holds way more than a CD does, which is why I suggest it. All the albums would fit on one disc.
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2010-02-20 15:25 (UTC) (Link)
Don’t be sorry about any delay in replying, Lass. I am not on line as often as before. My love of Frodo lives on. When ‘The Hobbit’ is closing in on us I’m sure the excitement will be renewed, albeit on a smaller scale.

I'd be happy to make a copy for you.

That is a generous offer, Mechling. Thank you.
My birthday is coming up in a few months so I am giving hubby a ‘nudge’ (not out of the door though). Isn’t it remarkable how, almost, all things revolve around LoTR, books and films? :)

Don’t hesitate to ask me if there is anything I can do for you.

mechtild at 2010-02-20 15:35 (UTC) (Link)

Do you mean, though, that you would like a copy, or that you would like the CD's as birthday presents from your husband? There is an advantage to that, since you get the booklet that comes with the CD with all the liner notes. But if he doesn't come through, or can't get all of them (check on Amazon and look at the song listings; I believe there may be two titles for what is the same song list, but I forget which album that applies to), let me know.

*another smooch*

~ Mechtild
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2010-02-20 16:12 (UTC) (Link)

I would like the CD's as birthday presents from hubby. I have even sent him the link. :D

We have snowstorm warnings here and minus 11 C. Brrrrrrrr!

*Hugses *


mechtild at 2010-02-20 16:24 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for clarifying, Estë. Best wishes on getting your birthday presents, and stay warm! :)
not_alone at 2010-02-17 22:22 (UTC) (Link)
Just catching up with my f-list now I have my latest chapter posted! I love this manip - the gentle smile, the wistfulness. I remember reading a review of FOTR (can't remember who wrote it) but the writer said he thought one of the reasons Elijah was so believable as Frodo was that he didn't have a 'modern face'. I found that interesting and think it could also be why Elijah looks so good in all these old paintings:)

And Jan's poem - as beautiful and as moving as always:)
mechtild at 2010-02-17 22:43 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Paulie, I'm glad you got to see and read this. I love the quality Frodo has in this image, too, that wistfulness. And Jan's poem gives that wistfulness--and more--voice.

I never have read the quote you mentioned, which sounds extremely apt, only ones likening him to Caravaggio's angels ("a Baroque angel", they also have said). If you ever find the original quote, I hope you'll post it. :)
frodosweetstuff at 2010-05-08 18:45 (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, that is really beautiful. I must have missed this post somehow. I love the smile and his pose. Obviously he just got a letter from Samwise... :)

Thank you! Very lovely. :)
mechtild at 2010-05-08 19:10 (UTC) (Link)
Didn't it make a lovely painting of Frodo? I love his wistfulness.
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