[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 012
Chapter 5 (2 of 3): The Doctor
Hello, Mazarine,” he said and smiled at me. He held the door to his suite on the twentieth floor open and invited me in. “Come on in.”
The music was playing and room service had already been here.
“Let’s just get comfortable first,” he said. “There’s plenty of time.” He had booked me for two hours. Unlike most of my clients he gave me his private envelope up front. I accepted it and tucked it into my bag. His little lagniappe was always more than substantial. And, besides, I genuinely liked this cultured man.
I sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the little table which held drinks, crackers and crudités on ice. We raised our glasses to each other. For a minute or so there was an awkward silence. He cleared his throat and shifted in his seat.
It was clear we would be pursuing his typical gambit of first exercising our minds and then, in his austere fashion, the flesh.
“I’ve been meaning to get your learned opinion on something,” he began.
“My learned opinion?”
“Yes. Have you seen the exhibition at the museum?”
“You mean the Spanish still lifes.”
To the accompaniment of much hoopla and public appearances by the university community and the city’s intellectual wannabes a magnificent show of sixteenth and seventeenth Spanish still lifes and genre paintings on loan from various European museums had opened about two weeks ago. I had been once already, and it was a truly stunning collection. You wouldn’t see anything like it outside the Prado, Louvre and Rijksmuseum combined. I was planning to go back several times.
“Yes, as a matter of fact I have.”
“Well, it’s all rather breath-taking, to say the least.”
“That was certainly my impression, too. I went last weekend.”
“Crowded, I’d imagine. I went the first Wednesday afternoon.” It had opened two weekends ago.
“Yes. But it’s hard for me to get away during the week. I wish I could. One wants to be looking at these pieces in solitary silence.” I couldn’t argue with his opinions.
“And what did you think?”
He looked briefly out the window over the park that spread out below. “I … I was quite overwhelmed,” he said in a hushed voice. “Do you remember the pieces by Cotán?”
“How could I not? Where have you ever seen vegetables like that? Still crisp and fresh, so to speak, going on well over four hundred years? And the royal sweets of Hamen y León?”
“Yes, yes. That’s exactly what I mean.” He seemed pleased that we both had a similar reaction to these exemplars of high artistic opulence. “Did you have any favorites?”
That was easy.
“Yes, I did. I do.”
He sat forward in his chair.
“Do you know El Aguador by Velázquez?” I asked.
“Of course.” He got up and got himself a glass of water. “It stays with you. Can you articulate what it is about it that gets to you?”
It was getting on to the end of the first hour, but he had me for two, and I knew that once he got going on his real purposes for engaging me it would all be over in ten minutes or so. And the truth is that Velázquez’ painting had long intrigued me in reproductions, pale instars of the real thing that I had seen just last week for the first time. It was one of the pieces I wanted to study more closely on my return visit.
“Well,” I began cautiously, “it’s because it’s about me. And it’s about you, and everybody else, too. And it is done with compelling authority.”
He nodded slowly, encouraging me to go on.
I had given the piece a lot of thought.
“I know it’s not generally considered among his greatest works, but it’s probably my favorite. It moves me deeply. As does that majestic portrait of Juan de Pareja – I always wonder what Velázquez was thinking while was doing him. Or what Juan was thinking. And all those sad court dwarfs he seemed so fond of painting.
“Do you know any of these paintings?”
“Yes. In reproductions, of course. Please, go on.”
“Fine, El Aguador. First, of course, is the superb technique, a truly classic example of a realist’s realism, from the water-beaded urn in the foreground to the two main characters in the middle distance. The composition is, again, classic, a doubled structure: large water urn in front to the right, medium water urn in the next plane to the left, and between the two of them in the more distant plane the glass of water; the old man in front to the left, the young boy to the right in the next plane, and the murky drinker between the two others and in the background. The triadic compositions of humans and water “talk” to each other.
“Am I making any sense to you?”
“More than you know. Why didn’t I meet you twenty-five years ago?” he sighed, only half self-mockingly.
TO BE CONTINUED