Browsing Category Arty Poems

A poem about an epic portrait

It took the painter Ingres 12 years to complete his portrait of Madame Moitessier (see below). “My enemy”, he called it. He had to repaint her dress three times to keep up with changes in fashion.

This poem is dedicated to people like me who spend far too much time checking, agonising over and redoing their work. I even proofread messages to my family’s WhatsApp group.

Like its subject matter, this poem turned out to be a time-consuming endeavour. Ironically, this is the only poem of mine that anyone has ever bothered to plagiarise (so far as I know) – see last message on the feedback page

My Enemy

For hour after hour
While she sat in that chair
He assessed the effect
Of the light on her hair

He weighed up dimensions
Of height, depth and space
And how they informed
The contours of her face

During the series
Of preparatory sessions
Mademoiselle tried
A range of expressions

Seriously haughty
Yet somehow mysterious
Impish and naughty
With a dash of imperious

After some months
Of toil and trial
He decided to go for
The enigmatic smile


He dabbed and he daubed
With pigments and dyes
And slowly the painting

Brimming with subtle
Yet pointed motifs
Later much copied
In Al Fresco’s reliefs

Two little old men
And two larger old ladies
Playing bridge on the bridge
On the ferry to Hades

In their wake rose an oyster
Seated inside, the pearl
This embodiment of
The essence of girl

A reincarnation
Of divine Aphrodite
Barely attired
In a gossamer nightie

Her youth would stay frozen
Pale and sublime
Despite the relentless
Dripping of time

Those period features
Delicately chiselled
Would never be crinkled
Or jaded or grizzled


They came from afar
To the unveiling party
The crème de la crème
Of French literati

Anxious to see
The masterful oeuvre
Before it was carted
Off to the Louvre

One of those present
Was Toulouse Lautrec
He wasn’t invited
He’d showed up on spec

In the midst of the throng
Stood Mademoiselle
Having just lately
Emerged from her shell

Indifferent to
The froing and toing
The sighs and the gasps
The aahing and oohing

So they asked her, please tell us
Don’t you like what you see?
She said, it really isn’t
A good one of me

So the painter went home
And opened a beer
Then cut off his ear

  • The enemy of Ingres:

A poem about Jesus materialising in England

In Sir Stanley Spencer’s 1920 painting “Christ Carrying The Cross”, Jesus is shown walking down the main street in Cookham on Thames, Berkshire.

When Jesus Came To Cookham

When Jesus came to Cookham
he strolled down
the main street
for three minutes
one Saturday morning
without warning.
Mrs Hazlitt
from the bookshop
couldn’t quite
place the face.

When Jesus came to Cookham
no one knew
quite what to do.
One person gathered
in the church
where the priest advised
against a sacrifice
whether animal
or otherwise.

When Jesus came to Cookham
it took him
three minutes
to realise
he’d come too soon.
So he left
carrying a case
in the shape of a cross.