Swan’s Way


For the Countess of Peralta


The snow-white Olympic swan,
with beak of rose-red agate,
preens his Eucharistic wing,
which he opens to the sun like a fan.


His shining neck is curved
like the arm of a lyre,
like the handle of a Greek amphora,
like the prow of a ship.


He is the swan of divine origin
whose kiss mounted through fields
of silk to the rosy peaks
of Leda’s sweet hills.


White king of of Castalia’s fount,
his triumph illumines the Danube;
Da Vinci was his baron in Italy;
Lohengrin is his blond prince.


His whiteness is akin to linen,
to the buds of the white roses,
to the diamantine white
of the fleece of an Easter lamb.


He is the poet of perfect verses,
and his lyric cloak is of ermine;
he is the magic, the regal bird
who, dying, rhymes the soul in his song.


This winged aristocrat displays
white lilies on a blue field;
and Pompadour, gracious and lovely,
has stroked his feathers.


He rows and rows on the lake
Where a golden gondola waits
For the sweetheart of Louis of Bavaria.


Countess, give the swans your love,
for they are gods of an alluring land
and are made of perfume and ermine,
of white light, of silk, and of dreams.

Ruben Darío


Photo: Bruce Weber


Carmen Dell’Orefice by Norman Parkinson, 1980


Swaroski logo


Bathyllus in the swan dance, Aubrey Beardsley


Henri Matisse making a study of a swan in the Bois de Boulogne, c. 1930


Advertisement illustrated by René Gruau


Illustration to Garcia Márquez’s short story Bon Voyage Mr. President, by Josie Portillo


Still from The Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)


Anna Pavlova


Still from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Bill Condon, 2011)


Helena Bonham Carter


Laetita Casta. Photo: Mario Testino


Uma Thurman and Mikahil Baryshnikov as The Swan Prince. Photo: Arthur Elgort


Truman Capote styled his beautiful and wealthy female friends “swans”


Accompained by Lee Radziwill and Jane Haward


With socialité Babe Paley in Paris


Escorting CZ Guest


Capote and Gloria Vanderbilt Lumet arrive at New York’s 54th Street Theatre for the opening performance of Caligula., 16 Feb 1960


Gloria Vanderbilt ad campaigns


Ludwig II (Luchino Visconti, 1972). He was sometimes called the Swan King


Mirror, Mirror (Tarsem Singh, 2012)


Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in The Great Gatsby (Jack Clayton, 1974)


Leonardo di Caprio. Photo: Annie Leibovitz


Madonna. Photo: David LaChapelle


David Bowie


Ad campaign featured in Vogue, January 1997


Tory Burch swan-print wedge sandalias


Swan Evening dress by Charles James, 1951


Kate Moss wearing a Givenchy gown by Ricardo Tisci, Spring-Summer collection 2011


Giles Deacon Spring-Summer 2012 collection


Erin O’Connor wearing a gown by Alexander McQueen. Photo: Tim Walker


Eglingham Children and Swan on Beach, Tim Walker, 2002

Magical Realism Illustrated



“…If anyone wants to find us it’ll be very easy”, she said with her natural charm. “All they have to do is follow the trail of my blood in the snow”. Then she thought more about what she had said, and her face blossomed in the first light of dawn.


-“Imagine”,she said. “A trail of blood in the snow all the way from Madrid to Paris. Wouldn’t that make a good song?”

“The Trail of Blood in the Snow”





“…A group of English tourists wearing shorts and beach sandals were dozing in a long row of easy chairs. There were seventeen of them, seated symmetrically, as if they were one man repeated over and over again in a hall of mirrors. Mrs. Prudencia Linero took them in at a single glance without distinguishing one from the other, and all that struck her was the long row of pink knees that looked like slabs of pork hanging from hooks in a butcher’s shop…”


“17 Poisoned Englishmen”






“…They did not need to look at one another to realize that  they were no longer all present, that they would never be. But they also knew  that everything would be different from then on, that their houses would have  wider doors, higher ceilings, and stronger floors so that Esteban’s memory could  go everywhere without bumping into beams and so that no one in the future would  dare whisper the big boob finally died, too bad, the handsome fool has finally  died, because they were going to paint their house fronts gay colors to  make Esteban’s memory eternal and they were going to break their backs digging  for springs among the stones and planting flowers on the cliffs so that in  future years at dawn the passengers on great liners would awaken, suffocated by  the smell of gardens on the high seas, and the captain would have to come  down from the bridge in his dress uniform, with his astrolabe, his pole star,  and his row of war medals and, pointing to the promontory of roses on the  horizon, he would say in fourteen languages, look there, where the wind is so  peaceful now that it’s gone to sleep beneath the beds, over there, where the  sun’s so bright that the sunflowers don’t know which way to turn, yes, over  there, that’s Esteban’s village.”


“The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World”





“…At three o’clock we left her to accompany Neruda to his sacred siesta, which he took in our house after solemn preparations that in some way recalled the Japanese tea ceremony. Some windows had to be opened and others closed to achieve the perfect degree of warmth, and there had to be a certain kind of light from a certain direction, and absolute silence…”

“I sell my dreams”






“He sat on a wooden bench under the yellow leaves in the deserted park, contemplating the dusty swans…”

“Bon Voyage, Mr. President”



Illustrations of Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s short stories by Josie Portillo