Imperfect Art: ‘The Duchess’ by Chris Jalufka


The video The Duchess was created as a writing exercise. It started with a search of the The New York Public Library Digital Collection, which offers a wealth of images digitized from the NYPL collection where you can view by era or image type, public domain images or those held in specific collections. I try to keep a pattern of writing a short story every week, but every once in awhile I want to try something different, so I pulled a slew of images from their public domain art collection created by 18th engraver Thomas Baxter and built a story around them.

The original purpose of Baxter’s engravings is lost to me, allowing a new narrative to flow. The Duchess is not perfect art, or even great or good art, but it does exist as pure exploration, which is the greatest gift art provides — the ability to delve into your own thoughts and ideas and see what comes out the other end with no expectations.

Take three minutes and six seconds and give The Duchess a moment to share her heroic journey.



illustration by 18th century engraver Thomas Baxter

illustration by 18th century engraver Thomas Baxter


illustration by 18th century engraver Thomas Baxter

illustration by 18th century engraver Thomas Baxter


illustration by 18th century engraver Thomas Baxter

illustration by 18th century engraver Thomas Baxter



‘The Duchess’

She sat alone in the parlor of the cathedral, a quiet place to house the memories of the country back when it inspired love, creativity, and pride in life itself. She was there, the Duchess Kira of Loran, to sit with her memories of loved ones no longer with us.

Her husband, the Duke of Loran, had been riding across the Earth, leading an endless war against anyone that questioned the King. The Duchess busied herself, being entertained with incredible feats of strength, humor, and daring. Bathing for hours followed by time front of her mirror, grooming and preparing herself for her love she was uncertain she would ever see again.

Life in the kingdom had grown dark. Crops were planted, harvested and sold. Homes built, destroyed. Life moved on in a haze of gloom. The King and his circle ruled from afar, paying no mind the citizens at their feet.

One spring morning the King called on his messenger, with a letter telling the soldiers to advance, keep up the fight until there is no one left to oppose him.

The duchess spoke to her closest friends, who told her of the king’s letter. She made her decision immediately – she would ride alone and retrieve the letter and bring the soldiers home.

She trained with the few soldiers remaining the kingdom and took the field of war. She battled the Wittled Keivs, who, once defeated, told the Duchess the letter was with the Beaston, The King’s roaming madman. She would need to don a costume made of stars. Being a simple thing, the Beaston would be lost in her body of moving constellations, and lose his direction. “Oh, Goddess of the Sky,” he muttered, from his back. “You are far bigger I. You are the universe itself.” The Beaston handed over the letter.

Kira, Duchess of Loran, retrieved the letter and returned it to the King, unseen by the soldiers in the field, and told him, “If the war is to continue, it must be you on that field. Go, and leave us in peace.”

The duchess watched the King on his throne, stunned, and she did not await his reply. She took his finest horses and once again took to the field, but this time not in anger, but in love.

She would find her husband the duke and bring him home. Where he would stay.



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