In most self-portraits it is the face that dominates: Cezanne is a pair of eyes swimming in brushstrokes



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Date09.07.2018
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Candle Hat
In most self-portraits it is the face that dominates:

Cezanne is a pair of eyes swimming in brushstrokes,

Van Gogh stares out of a halo of swirling darkness,

Rembrandt looks relieved, as if he were taking a breather

from painting The Blinding of Samson.
But in this one Goya stands well back from the mirror

and is seen posed in the clutter of this studio

addressing a canvas tilted back on a tall easel.
He appears to be smiling out at us as if he knew

we would be amused by the extraordinary hat on his head

which is fitted around the brim with candle holders,

a device that allowed him to work into the night.


You can only wonder what is would be like

to be wearing such a chandelier on your head

as if you were a walking dining room or concert hall.
But once you see this hat there is no need to read

any biography of Goya or to memorize his dates.


To understand Goya you only have to imagine him

Lighting candles one by one, then placing,

the hat on his head, ready for a night of work.
Imagine him surprising his wife with his new invention,

then laughing like a birthday cake when she saw the glow.

Imagine him flickering through the rooms of his house

with all the shadows flying across the walls.


Imagine a lost traveler knocking on the door

one dark night in the hill country of Spain.

“Come in,” he would say, “I was just painting myself,”

as he stood in the doorway holding up the wand of the brush,



illuminated in the blaze of his famous candle hat.


- Billy Collins

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