“The first time I see “Thèrése Révant,” I am walking through the Met. I see Therese reclining, her reverie and her red shoes like Dorothy’s.
Therese is Dorothy reimagined by Humbert Humbert.
I wonder what Therese dreams of, what Therese’s dreamlife is like. In the picture, she seems to be daydreaming, not really dreaming. She is not sleeping, though her eyes are closed, though her head is thrown back, though she seems unaware of the room around her. Still, her posture suggests that she is not fully relaxed, has not fully abandoned herself, has not given herself up fully. And somewhere, off to the side, is the invisible presence of Balthus watching her: her brown bob, her upturned nose, her red skirt hiked up to reveal white panties. It is an undeniably sexual image. Balthus’s preoccupation with young, nubile, sexualized girls is well-known and well-documented. We imagine we know the dreams Balthus dreams of Therese.
But what of Therese? What of Therese’s fantasies and obsessions and shameful desires? What does she dream of? What are the nature and the content, the shape and the substance of her reveries? Caught halfway between innocence and perversity, arrested at the nexus of rest and stimulation, Therese remains an unknown, an unknowable.”
Though this excerpt focuses on that of nymphet pictured in Balthus’ painting, Thèrése Révant, the entirety of the post is written by Yevgeniya Traps, a Professor of English at Hunter College, New York, and speaks of a childhood love, Taras, as she remembers him at the age of seven. Though she herself has grown into womanhood, she likens herself as a young girl in the image of Theresa, and the boy she remembers to the point of fantasizing remains the age at which she last saw him.
The imagery in this piece is fascinating–guiltily so. Traps’ reverie of this boy-child is beautiful, like the memory of first love, and at the same time painted crimson with the sensuality that womanhood bears. And yet, we are to learn that it is not Taras that she truly dreams of any longer with this longing sensuality, but is, in fact, her home of Kiev.
The prose reads like a train of cohesive and at the same time random thought; a liquid swim in the viscous haze of dream and reality and reality within dream that bears the resemblance of reality. It is a beautiful read.