Helene in a Fur Coat

The Fur ("Het Pelsken") by Peter Paul Rubens, 1630s

“Let it slip from your shoulder my kleine bruid.”

Helene blushed. The negotiations had begun an hour ago, leaving her petticoats in a pile on the divan, her corset slung over the chair, and her red dress on the floor beneath her like a rug. Only the fur was left.

“But husband, people will see this painting. The Janssens. The Duponts. The mayor.” Her breath hung in a cloud in the chilly studio.

He tilted around the easel to peer at her. “Indeed. And when the Lady Janssens’s raven tresses have gone gray, when the mayor’s bones have turned to dust in his grave, and when the mortar has crumbled on the Dupont château, and the last stone falls, you will still be fresh as dew. You will forever be the meadow bloom of the sweetest May morning. You will be immortal.”

She let the coat fall to her waist.

150 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.

Rubens spent the last ten years of his life in Belgium, where this photo of his second wife was painted. This was my attempt to decipher curious mix of wonder and triumph in her face.

24 Comments

  1. Ah, Rubens, the hero of every chubby lady. Love it. And you’ve captured Helene’s response so well. Rubens of the pen, ought we to call you? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hehe you made me giggle. He becomes more and more my hero with every passing year I’m afraid.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. An earthy man, I suspect. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I love how you tried to imagine what this look is saying, a great idea for a series of prompts based on classic art! I wonder if she really believed him, or if he truly believed it himself – I suspect neither would have guessed the impact his paintings still have to this day. Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What fun, that’s a great Idea for a prompt!

      I agree, I don’t think either of them could have imagined this future in which this painting moves us still.

      So great to see you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, hope to be around a bit more often from now on – it’s been a while!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I hope so. Looking forward to it!

        Like

  3. Lovely story. It is so difficult to describe human expression in an evocative way (especially since “Mona Lisa smile” is so overused.) You do an admirable job of putting the reader into the scene.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks J Hardy. Wish there were more words to capture expressions, especially the one on Helene’s face!

      Like

  4. Now, that was as romantic as it gets. Great story this week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Bear. I found her expression really inspiring 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. How sweetly sexy! I like how you’ve interpreted her expression, and indeed, her husband was right: her beauty is immortal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words. Sweetly sexy was exactly where I was aiming, so your comment made my day. Welcome back, Joy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I noticed yours is pretty spicy too. Must be the weather. 😉

        Like

  6. You’re bang on the money this week, Karen! I agree completely about the look on her face, and you’ve uncovered the story beautifully…
    Your writing is getting better and better – kudos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Penny. What a lovely thing to say and a gratifying thing to hear. I pondered what she was thinking for quite awhile before I decided where to take this.

      Like

  7. What an extraordinary thing at that time – to paint your wife semi naked! Surely, that would have been a minor scandal? As others have said, you ‘paint’ a glorious picture here – of a marriage, of a man and a woman, of love and pride and trust too. Really lovely. As Penny says, your work improves all the time

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lynn you are so very kind! I had the same thought you did–it had to be a scandal. In your story, the mother’s wisdom “Artists are cowards” doesn’t apply–not to this artist. Nor his muse. They had to be a tad fearless!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was a lovely read, Karen

        Like

  8. […] For my dear, generous beta readers, Maureen, Chris, Jane, Karen, Sammi, Jane and Lauren, I’m not giving up on finding Caro and Neil a home just yet. And […]

    Liked by 1 person

  9. peterkirsch

    I’d always assumed he just bribed her with sweets. She likely was oogling a plateful of stofé and appelflaps just to left of the easel. But that’s just me.

    I like how you so delicately persuaded her. I was half-undressed myself by the time I’d finished reading. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HA! What a great comment. You made my day!

      Like

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