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For Philip II, King of Spain


My King, feel not for Callisto

Do not concern yourself with sympathy

Hysterical tears beguiling weaker men

She begs mercy for her own transgression

Remember she has earned her nakedness.


Fear not nakedness

The Church counsels against sins of the

Flesh. This is neither sin nor flesh

Simply a pagan fantasy rendered in oil

Laid upon canvas for your delight.


My liege, relish this vision of Diana,

She is pale as moonlight, plump and nude

Her chastity unbroken by your gaze upon her breast

Sensuous and beautiful and

Unveiled for your courtly pleasure.


See her pleasure in Callisto's shame

Compelling her nymphs to reveal

Humiliation laying with despair

It gives honour to your virility

Bears witness to your majesty.


My King, witness this little world of lust

Hallowed by gilt framing and respectable allegory

I ask of your Majesty.


As I stand before you, recent heir to Callisto's misfortune.

Would you have me similarly uncovered?

Do I have a choice?

Digital activity at the National Gallery is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies Digital Accelerator

Maz Hedgehog
Maz Hedgehog is a writer and performer working somewhere between poetry and theatre. A founding member of Ink and Curtain, they’ve taken work to stages from Edinburgh to Brighton. Outside the arts, Maz dabbles in knitting, baking and excessive tweeting. Find them across social media @MazHedgehog
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