Sarrasine’s cynosure

La Zambinella performs

“He entered and took a seat in the pit, crowded between two unconscionably stout abbati; but luckily he was quite near the  stage…Suddenly a  whirlwind of applause greeted the appearance of the prima donna.  She  came forward coquettishly to the footlights and curtsied to the  audience with infinite grace.  The brilliant light, the enthusiasm of a  vast multitude, the illusion of the stage, the glamor of a costume  which was most attractive for the time, all conspired in that woman’s  favor.  Sarrasine cried aloud with pleasure.  He saw before him at that  moment the ideal beauty whose perfections he had hitherto sought here  and there in nature, taking from one model, often of humble rank, the  rounded outline of a shapely leg, from another the contour of the  breast; from another her white shoulders; stealing the neck of that  young girl, the hands of this woman, and the polished knees of yonder  child, but never able to find beneath the cold skies of Paris the rich  and satisfying creations of ancient Greece.  La Zambinella displayed in  her single person, intensely alive and delicate beyond words, all  those exquisite proportions of the female form which he had so  ardently longed to behold, and of which a sculptor is the most severe  and at the same time the most passionate judge.  She had an expressive  mouth, eyes instinct with love, flesh of dazzling whiteness.  And add  to these details, which would have filled a painter’s soul with  rapture, all the marvelous charms of the Venuses worshiped and copied  by the chisel of the Greeks.  The artist did not tire of admiring the  inimitable grace with which the arms were attached to the body, the  wonderful roundness of the throat, the graceful curves described by  the eyebrows and the nose, and the perfect oval of the face, the  purity of its clean-cut lines, and the effect of the thick, drooping  lashes which bordered the large and voluptuous eyelids.  She was more  than a woman; she was a masterpiece! In that unhoped-for creation  there was love enough to enrapture all mankind, and beauties  calculated to satisfy the most exacting critic.

“Sarrasine devoured with his eyes what seemed to him Pygmalion’s  statue descended from its pedestal.  When La Zambinella sang, he was  beside himself.



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