NR Digital

Poetry

by Len Krisak

VERISMO
– Gentile Bellini, Constantinople, 1480

Perhaps this fits in some Vasari-like
Apocrypha? Sultan Mehmet II,
They say, presented by Bellini with
An oil of John the Baptist’s severed head,
Repined: the painting wasn’t true to life –
A blunt critique Bellini hadn’t reckoned
On. So Mehmet ordered up a strike
One hopes was surgical (this may be myth):
A slave’s neck was presented to a knife,
And afterward, the slave was duly dead.
No mention if the great Bellini shook,
Told “this is how a severed head should look.”
Perhaps the captious Sultan meant no menace,
But Bellini soon returned to Venice.

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