“Lady Olivia, here you are,” as soon as she got off the carriage, the Duchess of Wedgewood called me in a welcoming voice.
I made my way through the crowd, walking towards the Duchess.
The exhibition hall, where the Imperial Art Exhibition is held, is crowded with people every year.
The vast crowd was proof of how hot people’s interest in the event was.
I entered the exhibition hall, being careful not to step on someone else’s dress by mistake.
“Come on, then… Shall we take a tour?” asked the Duchess, eager to look at the paintings on the walls of the exhibition room.
There are as many as 3,000 paintings on display.
The number was so large that some paintings were hung as high as the ceiling.
A bad placement could be disastrous to an artist whose artwork couldn’t be seen properly.
The paintings hung there were those that did not get good marks from the judges.
In other words, the works’ rankings could be told from the place where they were hung.
The Duchess appreciated a painting carefully, and I made notes in my notebook, focusing on notable artists’ works.
After the exhibition, I was going to buy some paintings that I had been eyeing.
I continued to observe the show with his Duchess.
In the meantime, an unusually large crowd caught my attention.
A large artwork hung alone on one wall.
The layout was intended to allow visitors to concentrate fully on the painting.
The Duchess explained in an excited voice.
“The work on that spot was unanimously the highest score by the judges.”
That meant it would be a very expensive painting. The Duchess and I came closer to see the image. And the moment the picture came into view…
I couldn’t say anything because I was so surprised.
Because the young man in the picture was a face I knew so well.
There was the face of the most beautiful young man in the world. The author’s name was quickly identified next to the title “Portrait of a Youth.”
A strange encounter a few days ago passed through my mind.
It was Nicholas Rossetti, a young genius who I had thought he was a poor unknown artist…
…I felt like I was walloped in the back of the head and mentally broken into laughter.
I heard a sniffling sound from the side. Tears stood in the Duchess’s gentle eyes.
She said in a slightly hoarse voice, stealing the edge of her eyes with a handkerchief.
“When I look at the young man’s face, I can feel how much hardship he has gone through.”
I understood the Duchess’s words and slowly faced the painting again.
The elaborate portrayal of the painting, as if the figure in the painting were alive and breathing, was phenomenal, but there was something else about the painting.
There was an element that made the viewer’s heartache.
Kian had a sad aura in the painting.
There was a tragic glow in his eyes as if he had suffered something great.
Whether the artist intentionally drew it or not, Kian in the painting emphasized a dim and mournful atmosphere.
Maybe that’s why the view knew instantly that his life was tragic.
Of course, Kian’s life was actually a thorny path.
Nicholas saw Kian only that one time, but how was he able to glean so much?
… He wasn’t called a genius for nothing.
I glanced around. Is it because outstanding works of art move people’s hearts?
The Duchess was not the only one whose eyes turned red.
“He’s so beautiful…”
Some people were more impressed by Kian’s beautiful appearance than the actual piece.
“10 billion gallons… …no, 20 billion gallons is not enough?”
“20 billion gallons? Will that do?”
“You’ll need at least 50 billion gallons!”
Some gentlemen have already been busy pricing the painting.
People appreciated paintings in their own ways.
The exhibition room became noisy.
“Isn’t that Nicholas, over there?”
“Really, Nicholas Rossetti!”
There was a tall man who looked neat in the eye of the visitors.
He strode toward me.
“Nice to see you again, Lady,” said Nicholas, neatly dressed, greeting me with his hat off, unlike when we met on the street.
He was quite young-looking when he didn’t have a beard.
I think he’s in his mid-thirties. Appearing in public for the first time in five years, Nicholas quickly caught people’s attention.
But he was used to getting attention and had a confident look unique to those who enjoyed it.
He smiled at me and asked:
“Do you like the piece?”
I didn’t dare joke and say I didn’t like it.
It was a painting that satisfied the judges of the art exhibition with its strictness.
Besides, after the exhibition, there was going to be a scramble to get a hold of the painting.
I was thinking about the ensuing bidding war, but Nicholas suddenly spoke out.
“I’ll give you this painting as a gift.”
Nicholas’s shocking declaration immediately caused a stir.
You’re going to give away a painting that you could sell for a huge price?
What the hell?
Nicholas spoke as if to answer the question that came to everyone’s mind.
“It’s a gift for the young man who was the model for my painting.”
The nobles, who had their eyes on the painting, all looked stunned.
The Duchess of Wedgewood who stood beside me remarked,
“Do you know who I envy the most in the world right now?”
You are the one… was the unspoken answer.
Perhaps the Duchess was greedy for this painting.
Nicholas, who caused a great deal of confusion, was indifferent to the reaction of his surroundings.
He’s been looking around for someone for a while.
I had a rough idea of who he was looking for.
“Mr. Nicholas. I heard it’s a payment for being your model, but isn’t it too much?”
To my question, Nicholas answered with a shrug.
“Too much? This painting is nothing compared to the beauty of the young man.”
That’s not just a painting….
He was the one that could say nothing that would surprise the judges, who knew his antics well.
He said while rubbing his neatly shaved chin.
“I guess you didn’t bring the young man.”
He was looking for Kian.
Nicholas spoke with a disappointed look on his face.
“The lady seems to think my gift is excessive, so please do me a favor.”
I was pretty sure I already knew what his request would be without having to hear it.