La Maternidad

by Pablo Picasso

1901

Oil on Canvas

                                    _____

Pablo Picasso (October 25 1881 - April 8, 1973) is one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century.  He was one of the founders of Cubism, one of the most influential movements in modern art.

 

GaleriaPaloma.com recommends www.pablopicasso.org, a portal of information on this prolific, great artist.

 

Whilst "La Maternidad" is exhibited on this page, the ownership of the painting is unknown, and, therefore, a proper reference to its owners and copyright limitations cannot be made. Both GaleriaPaloma.com and the poet emphasize that the painting is featured here for viewing purposes only and will not be reproduced for commercial purposes by GaleriaPaloma.com or the poet.  Visitors are requested to respectfully defer to international copyright laws with regard to this image, as well as with all the other images found on this site.

 

Solsequiem

by Marjorie Evasco

(after La Maternidad by Pablo Picasso)

 

She had known ever since she felt

the miracle of his heart quickening in her,

it would end the way it began: her arms

gathering his hurt body again and again

into her indigo mantle, the shield of her love

bringing the world to complete silence.

 

Today, when the boy limped into the room

of her mending, she laid the ball of thread,

needle and pair of scissors on the footstool

near her ebony chair, and held him close,

right hand tilting his face for her blessing,

her left covering his, cupping a ball,

 

red and small as his heart upon

his lightsome shoulder. As she bent

to soothe him, death  quietly slipped out

and into the world’s double horizon

of sienna and cyan, cyan and cerulean,

primary hues of earth meeting sea,

 

and sea meeting sky. Anchoring this vision

on the woman at the center of a room

mending a child’s heart, Picasso tends

to the world before it completely shatters,

his hands shaping a small blue universe

illuminating the script, enfleshing the Word.

 

_____

 

In 2005, I received from a friend a UNICEF Christmas card with a reproduction of the 1901 painting by Picasso called “Maternidad.” It’s a painting from his early blue period before he fully launched into the fragmented representation of reality later called Cubism. I researched on the beginnings of the 20th century, when the world had not yet been devastated by two world wars, and Spain had not yet suffered under the fascist regime of Franco. I realized then that the composition’s formal balance represented a time of innocence and wholeness, the Mother and Child figures of serenity and joy.

 

Initially, my project was to compose a poem that I would be able to send to friends as my Christmas greeting. But as I worked on the poem, I couldn’t help seeing at the back of my head another painting by Picasso, the Guernica, which stands witness to the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War. Towards the end of the poem, I sensed that I would have to use the technique used by John Ashbery in his “Self-Portrait on a Convex Mirror,” where the poetic discourse moves beyond the classical ekphrasis into the modernist discourse of art history and criticism.

In this particular poem, the title came last to me. I didn’t want to use the title of the painting as the poem’s title. As luck would have it to those of us who are constantly reading, I had the serendipitous joy of re-reading the book of primary colors by Alexander Theroux.  One of the chapters is “Blue.” In his lyrical and erudite meditation on the color the author mentioned the Latin word “solsequiem,” referring to it as the blue that the monks, who did the illustrated manuscripts, would use to make flourishes around the gold and red letters.

 

Something clicked home when I looked again at the painting and saw the red ball of the little boy like a solid red “O” surrounded by the rich blues. I decided to use the word for my title, and this choice also affected the formal tone, the regular stanza pattern, and the way I ended the poem to suggest on several levels the way art illumines the human condition to reveal what endures as true in spite of.

 

- Dr. Marjorie Evasco