The Ekphrastic Review prompt was this painting, Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels, by Jean Fouquet. I wrote three poems as different aspects of the painting. They won’t be published, in Ekphrastic, but I’m posting them here.



The putti pout

Did they know, his entourage, the trouble his birth would cause? Did she know, his mother? Her look is undisguised dislike, pinching her nostrils as she bares her breast, as if to say, Well, here it is, what I was conscripted for. Would they have rather been playing bawdy games, the frowning putti with their angry disapproving faces?
They had had fun as pudgy, winged toddlers when their playmates were Cupid and the Bacchantes, but those days were over and, like Mary, their role was fleshy innocence, background noise, a fandom for the stern-faced infant who was to rule the world.
Did they see the wars, the crusading fanaticism that would spring from such unsmiling prudery? Perhaps. Then again, perhaps they saw only the change in fashion that had painted them, resentful tots, into a prison of po-faced purity.

behind the clouds
wild spring races on goose wings
floodwaters sing

The girl dreams

The girl sleeps, head beneath the blanket,
while wind stirs the sand and the darkness,
stars flutter and foxes pad.

She is light again, the slender child no one notices,
and the air is silent except for the wind,
the sand sighing and the foxes hunting.

The angry insect buzz of voices is still,
the rosy over-fed cherub voices,
chubby pointing fingers gone,

and she curls foetus-like
around the empty belly that was never really hers
and will never fill with a child of her own,

the belly flat and arid
as the desert beaten by night winds,
so far from the stars.

The painter paints

He rages like the furious putti he paints
at the girl bride, his wife, so full of promises unfulfilled,
slender as a willow wand,

and he paints her breasts round as moons,
full and milky, full as cherub cheeks
and baby buttocks.

The hand refuses to round the belly,
tight, narrow-waisted,
hips bird-boned

and paints instead the mocking smirk
he imagines that denies the presence
of the rubicund boy

whose throne
should be her lap,
whose cradle her arms.



Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

23 thoughts on “Trinity”

  1. Jane, I particularly enjoyed your haibun 🙂

    Did they see the wars, the crusading fanaticism that would spring from such unsmiling prudery? Perhaps.

    Good question!

    Also, is it just me, or are her breasts not-so-realistic-looking? They remind me of a modern day “boob job”.


  2. All so true. I didn’t even see this prompt, but like you I have a hard time being reverent about these virgin and child paintings. She is tiny and bird-boned–except the breasts, the one exposed, and the other weirdly at her side. This baby/toddler Jesus isn’t as ugly as some of them.

  3. Loved all 3 poems. Fouquet was a minimalist. Mannerism came after Baroque. Am busy reading up about both the painter and the artwork. The colours are symbolic of France maybe? Just guessing at this point. Those red cherubim are rather disturbing! I see the model for the virgin was a mistress of King Charles VII – scandalous!

    1. Yes, the colours are the royal colours (not the tricolour as some people seem to think which is of course post-revolution).
      She’s certainly a strangely constructed woman. Isn’t that what they said about Cranach’s women, that he probably hadn’t ever seen a naked woman so there’s a lot of guess work?
      Not a very holy picture at all, and those cherubs…

      1. Yes, there are some who pick up on the stilted nature of the painting and the regal aspect. But you have to take it in its context for the representation of royalty. It’s the facial expressions that get to me. They ought to be real.

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