Surrender of Breda
Velasquez painted his self-portrait in Surrender
Of Breda just behind a massive horse whose rear
And flank dominate the lower right of the canvas.
Sporting a light grey hat with white and ruffled plume,
Velasquez painted himself with a white-laced scarf
Around his neck draped over his light grey coat.
His grey coat is softer in palette than the armoured
Ambroglio Spínola, Genoese general over the Spanish
Army, shown accepting the keys of the city of Breda
From Justin of Nassau, the Dutch governor.
Elegantly dressed. The painter shaped his own face, hair,
Moustache, and grey cloak with a soft roundness
Set off from the brown lances pointed skyward
And forming a vertical lattice in the right background.
Velasquez painted his face a lightly ruddy glow
With a brown goatee and upturned moustache.
Velasquez painted his left boot just below and behind
The right gold stirrup set below the darker browns
Of the horse’s right flank and even darker strands
Of its mane. From the edge of the canvas,
As if holding the horse at bay, keeping himself
In the picture, he eyes the viewer.
His self-portrait in the right border mirrors
His portrait of a young gun-wielding Dutch soldier
Whose black eyes seem even more transfixed
On the viewer.
What is the folded white paper
Painted in the lower right corner,
Lying atop brownish-grey rocks, directly below
Velasquez’ light brown boot and the dark brown
Hoof of the horse? Why this white paper
Where Velasquez might have signed
This massive memento of the surrender at Breda?
Why left lying on rocks, unsigned,
Like the folded blank piece of paper
On the bottom left of his Philip IV
On Horseback, finished the same year,
1635, 10 years after the Dutch
Established Fort Amsterdam as the capitol
Of New Netherland, 27 years after Don Pedro de
Peralta founded the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico?
John Beall’s first book of poems, Self-Portraits, was published in 2019 by The Finishing Line Press. The poems, “Self-Portraits” and “November 22, 1963,” were awarded the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize in 2016 and 2017. His poems have appeared in The Henry James Review, Slant, MidAmerica, and Poems for Hemingway and Paris. His poem, “View of Mount Atalaya,” appeared in the summer 2021 issue of Slant. His poem, “Goya’s Self-Portrait at the Prado,” is due out next year in the collection: Song Up Out of Spain, to be published by Clemson University Press.
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