TUESDAY: The Little Peasant

BY MARINA WILSON

Copyright is held by the author

A WELL-DRESSED man walked in the museum. He did not know much about the arts but his current status in society required he had paintings in his big house. Prior to buying anything, he thought he ought to know what he was paying for, as he always did. He walked through the multiple rooms glancing at the scenes of hunting, battlefields, landscapes, and castles until he arrived at a portrait gallery. He started walking clockwise, looking at various men’s and women’s faces before stopping abruptly in front of a small portrait. The image brought up long forgotten memories of a trip to an artist’s studio he and his father made when he was a young boy.

He remembered how his mother helped him get in a new grey suit made at a local tailor’s and combed his hair with a drop of her perfumed pomade. They rode into the city in a small cart pulled by a donkey. Leaving the cart at a market stall where they used to sell milk, eggs and honey, they walked to the artist’s studio on the west side of the city.

The studio was in a dusty, messy room of an old building. The artist greeted them warmly and invited them to sit down on an old couch with a few holes in it. The boy did not want any spots on his new jacket and pants and chose to stand. He waited patiently until his father and the artist settled on the price. He felt if he had talked to the artist he could have gotten a better deal with some honey, milk and eggs as part of the price.

Finally, the artist sat the boy on a wooden chair and hours later said they could leave and return to pick up the portrait in a few weeks’ time. The artist did not let them see the sketch, but the boy imagined a glorious image of himself as a knight, or a noble gentleman from Venice, or better, a merchant standing on the deck of his ship. The events that unrolled after the trip to the artist’s studio were devastating. The boy’s father fell suddenly ill and passed away; the burden of running the shop fell on his and his mother’s shoulders. They persevered and, after many years of hard work, he became a successful merchant.

Looking at the portrait, the man thought he would have looked better without the hat. He remembered how as a young boy he imagined he would be portrayed. Should have brought some milk, eggs and honey to the artist, he thought, smiling to himself. He wanted to see what the artist titled the painting and so stepped closer. The plaque under the portrait read “Amedeo Modigliani, The Little Peasant.”

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