From the Life

Jon Stallworthy

‘All this takes place on a hilly island in the Mediterranean,’ Picasso said. ‘Like Crete. That’s where the minotaurs live, along the coast. They’re the rich Seigneurs of the island. They know they’re monsters and they live, like dandies and dilettantes everywhere, the kind of existence that reeks of decadence in houses filled with works of art by the most fashionable painters and sculptors ... A minotaur keeps his women lavishly but he reigns by terror and they’re glad to see him killed.’ ... He turned to another print, a minotaur watching over a sleeping woman. ‘He’s studying her, trying to read her thoughts,’ he said, ‘trying to decide whether she loves him because he’s a monster.’ He looked up at me. ‘Women are odd enough for that, you know.’ He looked down at the etching again. ‘It’s hard to say whether he wants to wake her or kill her,’ he said.

Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake: Life with Picasso

The Sleeping Gypsy

I was the gypsy sleeping
under a desert moon
white-bellied as the mandolin
beside me on the dune.

The wind that stirred my rainbow dress
was no wind but the breath
of some beast with my father’s eyes
and the smell of death.

Liberation

1

In the room above the studio
he freed me from my dress
and tossing it over a chair
stood back and said ‘Yes.

Incredible how accurately
I had prefigured your form.’
Afterwards on the bed,
his touch was warm

but distant: sculptor’s hands
about their business find
whether their handiwork
is ready to be signed.

2

Outside the studio,
after dark one could see
boys building barricades;
inside the studio,
after Liberation
the Fruits of Victory –
tinned peaches, hams, one day
a GI’s rum ration
and a crate of grenades
inscribed To Picasso
from Hemingway.

3

After Cézanne’s Apples
and with their sculpted weight,
Picasso’s Pineapples
shadow a blue-rimmed plate.

Objets Trouvés? Still Life?
Each in its fissured skin
impervious to the knife.
To peel one, pull the pin.

My Last Mistress

That’s my last mistress on the easle. I
call her ‘The Fallen Picador’ – and why?
She lived ten years with the minotaur
and deserved to leave with the honours of war,
so when Vallauris last July declared
me president of the corrida, I shared
the honours with her. Seeing that the bull
was my symbol, the horse her symbol,
what end could be more fitting than that they
should face each other in a ritual way –
life imitating art, a masterpiece
of living theatre?

                 When I took my place
in the president’s box and raised my hand,
she was the first out, scattering sand
and with the hooves of her passaging horse
determining my picture’s lines of force.
She circled the arena, reined in, bowed
to me as president, and read aloud
the proclamation in my honour. Then
rode from the ring, leaving the bulls and men
to face their deaths. There were no horses killed
that day, but ever since my dreams are filled
with goring. The result you see. Had she
remained, unchanged, the girl who posed for me
in the light of Liberation, hers
would be a face the world remembers,
a daughter of the sun, instead of this
nightmare metamorphosis
of woman into horse: familiar head
and satin flank, the bull’s head garlanded
with entrails.

                 But enough of her.
Here’s something that I fancy you’ll prefer –
a necklace. Let me help. Look how your skin
irradiates my metal from within.
It fits that hollow better than its mould,
my bull’s horned head Chatagnier cast in gold.