by Jacek Gulla

5 of 8.

—–In Europe, the title of court painter invokes Velasquez’ Las Meninas. The artist, at the easel, undisturbed by presence of royals, painted himself taller than Their Highnesses are, reflected in a distant mirror. That inch or so went a long way in Escorial. Artist was above human. Like Michelangelo earlier on, when in his Inferno his brush included a portrait of one sitting cardinal. When His Eminence protested to the pope, His Holiness shook his shoulders. If Michelangelo put you there, even pope cannot do one thing about it…

—–So I was all pride and resolve one morning back in my neo years, to learn that I have been elevated, in services of the Polish Daily News, to the status of these grand antedates of painting. On the way to the offices, I carried myself with lordly airs, tools of the trade in my satchel, entrusted with me for the most demanding of missions. The commission turned indeed to involve court, but the one corner of Broadway and Chambers. A Polish woman stood trial there on nasty charges, hundreds of thousands embezzled out of illiterate illegals, her folk in Greenpoint, but that the cameras were barred from the premises the paper figured my pencils might do instead, and issued me necessary credentials. I was scared for my eye-to-hand stiff, if skills match the task. The accused soon figured I was working on her, as she sat three or four rows in front, waiting for her case to be called. It was a trois en cadre right on, but from behind her, her ruffled hairdo for most of the drawing, her nervous, vicious profile seen in blinks of eye, as the accused shot me furious glances over her shoulder. She wasn’t alone. The guys around her, good I didn’t draw their mugs, as they stared me down, so much so, I wondered whether I will get back to the office in one piece.

—–The result of my efforts, fear of justice caught red hand, carried enough likeness of the felon, that the paper run it first page. I wasn’t necessarily fond of that portrait, so I was only dashed, seeing on the same page a drawing by Leonardo do Vinci reproduced for unrelated news, my pencil standing its own, modern and true, next to sfucatto face of Renaissance ideal.

—–But that’s where my court painter career has been terminated. There were not enough many newsworthy cases in the community, on the one hand, the paper explained, adding on the other, that for the safety of my own person, I shall be only glad, glad and grateful, for their difficult decision.