A few years back I was commissioned to produce not just one portrait but a series of five for the renowned Russian Mistress Lubyanka (now retired). The brief was to depict her in each season with a preface. It took a long time to produce – almost a season each but the result was well worth the wait. The commissioner even added some explanatory text to each picture.
“The frontispiece shows Gaspazha standing, imperious, outside the sinister Lubyanka prison from which She chooses to take Her name. The building, the dreaded headquarters of the KGB, looms menacingly behind Her in the gloom of a cold Moscow evening, a fresh dusting of snow on the ground. Two slaves grovel on the icy cobbles, one female, gagged; the other male, hooded and blindfolded. They are a new gift for Mistress to play with and their heads are turned towards Her with fear and longing. Already they are collared and Mistress holds their leashes in Her hand. Behind Her the door to the Lubyanka is open, awaiting Her return to amuse Herself with Her new toys. Lights gleam in some of the windows – who knows what torture is occurring behind them even now as we view the scene outside? The image is framed by long single-tailed whips and beneath, in art deco Cyrillic the words proclaim Her Majestic Name; Mistress Lubyanka!”
“The violent Russian spring, that seemed to start in an hour and was like the whole Earth cracking.” “The Goddess, Regal, Noble and Sublime, Owner of serfs, inspects Her Estates. This is Maslenitsa, when the arrival of spring is celebrated. The skylark sings to herald the warmth of the sun after the long, grey winter, and we, Her worthless possessions, toil naked and collared in the chill of the April air to till Her fields and prepare Her lands for planting. But when Mistress passes by we must stop all we do to offer Her bliny and vodka. These symbols of the renewal of the sun and the water of the Earth – the bliny are as the disk of the life-giving, golden orb – will bless our labour for Her and, we pray, temper Her natural sadistic inclination to punish us. A slave bows, subservient beside the stallion on which She rides side-saddle, resplendent in Her warm fur-lined riding habit. One graceful foot rests on the slave’s hands, the other upon his head. He bears an elaborate, barbed table on his back and yearns only to press his worthless lips to Her divine boots. Mistress is indifferent to his aching need. She will abuse him if it pleases Her; and perhaps at any moment the cruel riding crop She holds with the reins will lash His grateful body into submission. She owns us; we are Her possessions, and every second of every day of every year we rejoice that we are Hers to torment as She desires. She is the Sun that rises at the end of winter and brings the warmth of spring to Her slaves.”
In the stifling heat of the Russian summer, Mistress has retired to a secluded dacha nestling in the shady heart of an ancient forest of silver birch. The endless woods are Her private pleasure gardens; here and there Her slaves are strung up, naked and helpless amongst the trees, awaiting the sweet agony of Her touch. She strolls amongst them, so Elegant, so Beautiful, clad only in the diaphanous silk of Her delicate dress. Mid-summer ferns form a soft carpet upon which She wanders amidst the dappled leaves. It is my joy to be one of these slaves; and it is at this moment my privilege to be the object of Her cruel amusement. A sheen of sweat glistens over my hairless body as i strain against the unyielding bondage of the ropes that bind me kneeling and exposed before Her. A silver chain around my neck bears the tag that identifies me as Her property. Harsh clamps torture my nipples and a leather gag muffles my blissful moans of anguish. Mistress stands before me, abusing me with Her bare feet. She turns my head towards Her with the bundle of birch rods with which so soon She will thrash me. My face is contorted by a mixture of fear and adoration, of pain and desire, as i submit to the exquisite ecstasies of Her torture. Gaspazha glows in the luminous heat. She smiles exultantly at the suffering of Her slave and is cooled by a nerve-tingling quiver of pleasure from my torment. For She knows that this is the very instant when Her slut has finally understood that he exists only to provide Her with gratification and enjoyment. She truly owns me; before it was just my body, but now my soul is Hers, forever.
“And with each Autumn I blossom anew” In the mountain fastness of Her Kavkaz estates, where the tumbling vines cling to the steepling slopes and hang over the gorge of the mighty Terek, Mistress Lubyanka has come to oversee the harvest of the year’s vintage. Already the leaves are falling gold and crimson from the trees, and whilst the sun’s once fierce light falls feebler now, the midday air is still warm at this time of Autumn. Her serfs toil quickly, for the grapes must be gathered in before the night-time frosts take them. Snow already caps the distant peaks. Hither and thither they scurry, heaving the heavy baskets that brim with the rich crop. Mistress relaxes on a cage, tantalising the prisoner within, and playfully smears crushed grapes over the face of a slave who grovels in abject and blissful worship beneath Her feet. She samples a previous vintage, named for Tamara, the anti-heroine of Lermontov’s poem – and is that the ancient tower of Tamara’s ruined castle we see in the distance? She holds the glass to the light to admire the wine’s golden lustre and exalts at Her control over all She surveys. How radiant She is! Ageless and Beautiful as an Angel amidst the magnificent withering of Nature. By Her guile and Her art She has sown the seeds of our bondage in the fertile soil of our submission. Now She reaps the abundant harvest of our souls and distils their essence for Her pleasure; oh God, that i were worthy of Her!
Now is the cruel Russian winter. Gaspazha is driving Her sleigh once more through the moonlight to Her dacha, which groans beneath the burden of snow that lies thick and deep across the land. Swirling flurries continue to fall, flecking all with the white confetti of midwinter. It is bitingly cold, and amidst the ghostly trees silvery shadows move; wolves howl in the vast distance. Does our Goddess care? Of course not! She is warmed by Her gorgeous furs and by the pleasure of whipping on Her troika and the three slave ponies that stamp and prance in their harsh outfits. No creature of the darkness would dare challenge Her, She is the Mistress of the Night, Her power commands all. For long hours the dacha slaves have gazed out in yearning for Her arrival, and now they rush forward joyously to meet Her; one greets Her by kissing Her boot, the other bears the assembled artwork that Sardax has prepared for Her delight. Her slaves may gasp and tremble in the icy air, but they know that all too soon their flesh will be warmed by the sweet sting of Her cane and the harsh caress of Her whip. Soon the boundless forest will echo with their moans of gratitude. She is the Queen of this land, Empress of all the seasons, Owner of our hearts. And at this very moment Her eyes are turned to gaze at us, Her lucky worshippers. They flame like stars with Her mischievously sadistic amusement and ask us all a simple, unspoken question; “Do you dare?”