You Are A Fifteenth-Century Flemish Painting…

You are a big grand triptych, richly oiled, new beautiful in Ghent. Big shadows, careful hand, full of foreground, smeared with blending, the best smell in church, and a big fabric on your head, velvet heavy, perspective caught and cracked open, plane shattered, wet on wet on oak. You are gilt gilt gilt, emblem added, finger-blotted, over a big guild, merchants looking at you, new merchants emerging. It is the fifteenth century and the merchants are emerging. The merchants are emerging out of the fifteenth century. They are a new class. The new class of the fifteenth century is here, and they’re merchants, and they want art. The merchants are kicking their way out of the fourteenth century and linking elbows until they turn into leagues and market towns. The merchants are wrapping dense fabrics around their foreheads and thinking about acting on behalf of a principal. The merchants are spilling out of lines of credit and offering a courier service and they want tall paintings of their wives Barbara, with the long neck, symbolism in. The merchants’ hats are lined with fur and swollen with religious allegory, and you are covering it with your art mouth, your loom-whirring body, your multi-paneled hands. Your lines are precise, your strokes brushed through with Dutch-rich winter power, you are replacing land with money, you are technology already, you are big sad smart and Italy is too far away to kick-start you.

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