moreelse painting1SBPpicture
I Confide in Paulus Moreelse’s “Portrait of a Young Lady” About My Divorce
by Jennifer Finstrom

At the Art Institute, I always visit Gallery 237
first, gaze at the red-haired young woman
across four centuries. She is younger than I am,
looks nothing like me, but we have formed a kinship.
The curators know few details of her life beyond
this moment, assume from the opulence
of her jewelry, the pearls and enamel, the lace
and ribbons and gems, that she was a part of the Court
of Orange-Nassau. We commune together
in silence, and I can imagine any sort of story
for her. In 2002, I wrote a poem called “Girl
in an Imaginary Painting,” and reading it now,
I am astonished at what it knew about my life.
Paintings know as much as poems, and I
continue to admire the frilled ruff, heavy brooch,
and black and red puffed sleeves: this is all armor,
something she must have one day come to know.

PAINTING: “Portrait of a Young Lady” by Paulus Moreelse (c. 1620), Art Institute of Chicago.

PHOTOGRAPH: Recent photo of the author with some of her own favorite accessories.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Over the past several years, I’ve become fascinated with the unnamed young woman in Paulus Moreelse’s “Portrait of a Young Lady.” I’ve written about her before, and I’m sure I will again. The reason for our bond is almost certainly the detailed opulence of her dress and accessories and how they seem to both hide and protect the person within.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Finstrom teaches in the First-Year Writing Program, tutors in writing, and facilitates writing groups at DePaul University. She is the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine, and recent publications include Escape Into LifeExtract(s), NEAT, and YEW Journal. For Silver Birch Press, she has work appearing in the  The Great Gatsby Anthology  and Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks and forthcoming in the Alice in Wonderland Anthology.