The Marigold Chemise
Silk charmeuse is known as the “Ferrari” of silks. One side is softly muted crepe, and the other side is classic shimmery satin. It drapes beautifully and is often used for lingerie.
The Marigold Chemise
Lucida hurried along Via Giulia. She was late and dreading the harsh words of her father. Lately she had been visiting the studio of the Salvatori family, famous painters on the via Margutta, and if her father became aware of her secret visits his punishment would be swift and severe. Her dear friend Alessia had convinced her to sit for a series of paintings. Initially she resisted, largely due to the fear of her father’s disapproval. But when Alessia presented her with the most sensuous marigold colored garment she had ever seen for her to pose in she could not resist. The chemise had thin delicate straps, a diamond shaped panel at the waist, softly hugging the female form. “Isn’t this the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?” asks Alessia. “A patron gave it to my father, and he passed it to me. The fabric is rare, silk charmeuse.” Caressing the chemise, camicia da donna, between her palms Lucida began to feel foreign sensations.
“Please, my friend” Alessia had pleaded. “I need to make paintings that are not of Bible myths or stiff portraits of the self-important rich. I want to show beauty and power. You are the only one I can count on, and the marigold chemise will be perfect for the compositions. Please. The paintings are just for me, for my work, no one will see them.”
The seduction had begun. The marigold chemise had begun to work its magic as they planned the series of work. Alessia is the artist, so she was contemplating composition and palette, but Lucida found that when she donned the marigold chemise, she naturally moved her body to the perfect degree that suggests an intimacy with the viewer. They decided on five paintings, each with a unique composition of Lucida posing in various stages of exposure.
She pleaded with the saints that she would arrive home before her father, and that in the chaotic household neither her mother nor her siblings would take note of her arrival. She would slip in through the servant’s entrance and pretend that she had been gossiping with the cook.
The Galvani family resides in a palazzo on Via Giulia, Rome, a beautiful street just off of the Tiber River lined with wisteria and plane trees. Lucida’s father, Luigi, is a physician. He is serious and strict in direct contrast to his wife Eugenia, who is sweet and scatter-brained. Lucida is the eldest at fifteen, followed by Brigida at thirteen, Luigi Junior at twelve, Giovanni at ten, and baby Beatrice is ten months. An assortment of pooches, stray cats and birds tended by the house staff in the small garden complete the household. By nature, Eugenia is incapable of order and calm in running the household. Everyone loves her and she is generous with her laughter and affection, relying on Luigi to discipline their brood and maintain some semblance of order when he is home.
Safe! Lucida is able to venture undetected from the kitchen up the stairs to her room. She quickly sheds her outer cloak and sinks onto her bed to review her afternoon in private. Alessia is brave to pursue this series of paintings, but the Salvatori studio is so busy, a veritable hive of industry, that it is possible that no one will take notice of the work, not bothering to peek beneath the drop cloths. In her mind’s eye she sees herself working with Alessia as they experimented with the first pose. They settle on a seated position with Lucida propped against cushions draped with lengths of cloth across the divan. Deep ultramarine blue, titanium white and a hint of scarlet set the stage. The marigold chemise is the centerpiece with one strap off of the left shoulder exposing her breast. She can feel her heart rate quicken like the little birds who land on her window ledge each morning, their tiny breasts pulsating wildly.
After just one afternoon enfolded in its softness the marigold chemise has beguiled her. She hasn’t experienced anything like this before, a feeling of being intensely alive and vibrant.
Lucida is aware that her father has been pursuing conversations with his friends and associates about a suitable future husband. The custom of the time being that girls from better families would marry at about sixteen to a man of about thirty, since he would already be established in his business. It was a business arrangement. Her family would pay a dowry to his consisting of money and household objects, while he usually gave her betrothal jewelry before the day of marriage. She had never questioned her future, she assumes that she will have a life like her parents, a nice palazzo, some children and a place in society. Until today, she hasn’t envisioned the actual marriage or the man who would be her husband. As much as she feared her father’s disapproval, she trusted him to procure a suitable match.
Brigida bursts into Lucida’s room laughing at the puppy wiggling in her arms and giving her sloppy kisses. “Father is home for the evening meal. He has to go back to the hospital later so hurry to the table”. Everyone gathers, and after a blessing by father the kitchen servant serves the fish, bread, olives and wine. It is the custom for Luigi to inquire about the activities of his offspring during the evening meal. A hired tutor, Ariston, arrives every morning to teach the four older children a curriculum designed by Luigi to prepare them for daily life. The boys will then advance to more formal study. This evening he begins with Lucida. “Lucida, what did you do today after Ariston left?” “I went for a walk in the Borghese with my friend Isabella and then came home to study my lessons.” “Allora,” he holds her eye a few seconds longer than usual and moves on to Brigida. “Do I seem different? It cannot be. It is just my imagination.” Lucida thinks to herself.