a paint by produce portrait

court painter arcimboldo's view of the archduke

The Emperor had four portraits of me painted before he gave the nod.  Four!  Which meant I had to sit on a perch, all day long, on four different occasions whilst the artists squinted, rubbed and stroked their way to failure.

But, in the artists’ defense: it’s hard to please the monarchy and the subject, both.  A good portrait must flatter, accentuate, capture a mood, and, well, tell a story.

Before our wedding, the story the Emperor wanted to tell of me is that I was nymphlike, graceful, supple and kind.  O, and spunky as well! He wanted a picture of me that aligned with his deepest fantasy.  A bare shoulder, but not so bare that the portrait would cause arousal of the entire Court.  My flushed cheeks should hint that I’d just come in from a long, brisk walk–reminiscent of the first time we met, when he dumped my sister and asked for my hand in marriage.

On these details three attempts failed.

In one I am too wan. In the second, my hair is not lively enough.  The third made me look fat.  Time ticked on.  At last, the fourth portrait was accepted!

Really, I long for the days of my ancestors, when Arcimboldo’s veggie tales were in vogue.  Arcimboldo got away with turning popes and kings into fanciful platters of produce: actual peaches for cheeks!  Hair sprouting grapes and corn!  Had he been alive during my Habsburg reign, I should have loved to witness my life as a collection of nightshade fruits and wholesome grain.