Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

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


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
Tags: art manips, frodo art travesties, jan-u-wine, michael sweerts

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