Ruth Orkin’s American Girl in Florence, Italy 1951
I am on my way home from the grocery store, having picked up a few things for lunch tomorrow. I walk around the back side of the Duomo and head down towards the Via dell’Oriuolo. I take a deep breath because I know this is the one street I have trouble with in town. I have a very love-hate relationship with the men in this city. The cat-calls start almost immediately as I begin walking down the street.
“Ciao bellissima!” exclaims one man on a scooter.
Another leans forward and sends me air kisses. All the other men on the street turn to stare at me walking down the street. I get several invitations for dinner and coffee, but politely reject them all. I walk faster, finally turning on the Borgo Pinti.
“Ciao ragazzi!” I proclaim, as I head towards my house. “Same time tomorrow!”
The Ecstasy of St Teresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1652
I am on my knees again like I am every day. This is my sixth hour in the chapel, having started at Prime and it is now Sext. Suddenly it seems as though a gentle hand is opening my robes, baring my soul, and I look up to see a brilliant burst of light and flame overheard. I hear the soft flapping of wings and I can see the outline of a beautiful diminutive angel holding a fire-tipped spear. He is pulling the weapon back in preparation for striking. All at once, I feel him thrust it down into my heart and I am suddenly engulfed with God’s spirit and love. It is radiating through my body like ripples on a lake. The pain is so intense, I moan out loud with the suddenness of it. I feel the presence of our Lord in a way I never have before.
Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1625.
I am a river dryad, daughter of the river god Peneus, and devoted to the huntress Diana. I have vowed my virginity to her, and Cupid has made it doubly so. My lord Apollo knows this and yet still he pursues me. He too has been pierced with an arrow of a different sort. I run as fast as I can, begging him to leave me alone.
“Peneus, my father, help me I beseech thee!” I scream as I run.
He grants my request, and suddenly my feet become roots, a thin bark covers my body and my raised hands and flowing hair starts sprouting leaves.
Apollo catches up to me, and still wants me despite my transformation. “If you are not to be mine, let me at least honor you.” And so I became a laurel tree, beloved of Apollo.
Marta, from the Eyes as Big as Plates series. Riita Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth, Norway 2011.
Demeter is lost in thought and the fallen leaves have formed an autumnal crown around her divine head. She is contemplating the fate of her daughter Persephone and the time that must now pass before Persephone returns from the underworld. A single tear slips down her cheek remembering that unhappy memory. They hadn’t been on speaking terms in awhile, not since the last fight they had. Both are too proud to admit they need the other. Demeter doesn’t want to think about it anymore and lets out an anguished sigh before silently continuing her journey through the orchards surrounding the temple at Eleusis. Leaves crunch underfoot as she stops to gather a bouquet of late-blooming orange poppies, and sets them near the temple entrance. They are for the women who are about to start the Thesmorphoria.