Melissa Balmain: Backstories Of Famous Paintings Revealed

The Mona Lisa
(Leonardo da Vinci)

For centuries, I’ve tried to just abide it—
the gossip re my smile and “tales beneath.”
Enough! The stupid truth (I tried to hide it)
was that I had some cabbage in my teeth.

The Scream
(Edvard Munch)

All day the baby barfed. The toddler hid.
The landlord and my mother’s cousin called.
And as I slaved, my husband napped—the creep.
So did I pluck my hair till I was bald?
And did I holler on that bridge? I did.
It’s lucky I did not inspire “The Leap.”

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2
(Marcel Duchamp)

It seems that not a single person cares
about moi, Marcel’s model on the stairs.
That bod he painted could be anyone’s!
So, for the record: I had stellar buns.

Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue
(Georgia O’Keeffe)

The thing that no one ever spies
is that I’m wedged between two thighs
in blue jeans. (Georgia loved such beauts,
but Alfred only would wear suits.)

Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe/The Luncheon on the Grass
(Edouard Manet)

Why do I seem to stare at you
while sitting here, completely nue?
I’m waiting for a friend with clothes
that I can wear instead of those
you see beside me in a pile—
my lunch companions drenched them while
I swam. I really ought to thank
the fools for their insipid prank:
Now I’m the one, among us all,
museumgoers will recall.

The Child’s Bath
(Mary Cassatt)

If only we had posed some other way,
my mother and myself, that wretched day—
but no. Thanks to this painting (how it galled me!)
“Miss Stinky Feet” was what my schoolmates called me.

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird
(Frida Kahlo)

We felt as cherished as the sainted:
the three of us, Bird, Monkey, Cat,
so seen while Frida stared and painted.
How could we have predicted that
all other humans, low- and high-brow,
would focus solely on her eyebrow?

(Edward Hopper)

You too would be a bit depressed, no doubt,
to learn the blue-plate special had run out.