Chapter 140 – To Florence, Italy… (3)
Most people have a not-so-good image about artists. You might think of a madman with mental diseases like Gogh, or a man with crooked hatred for women like Degas.
At least you would think an artist is someone with a shaggy beard, free soul, and stubbornness.
However, Raphael was a little different. He worked during the prime days of the Renaissance, and unlike other artists, he was good looking and had good manners.
His father was a court painter. Because of him, Raphael often went to the court with him. So, he could learn a noblemen’s elegant and refined manner.
His Self-portrait, aged 23, clearly shows his handsome appearance. He was a very good-looking boy.
Additionally, he was great at depicting characters with beauty and elegance.
This painting was no different. It was the drawing of a feminine face. Raphael had drawn it to practice an important or tricky part of a painting he wanted to make.
He put the original drawing on a new piece of paper and made small holes on the outline and pressed chalk on it. He changed the shape as he wanted and filled the rest of the line.
It was probably a drawing he made to paint on a wall by following the pope’s directions, and at seeing it, Haejin recalled a painting.
“Hmm… I guess you think this is part of the wall painting in Mount Parnassus?”
Claudia was a little surprised and said, “Yes. We assume this was drawn as practice before Raphael painted in the Stanza della Segnature. It must be part of the series of four paintings he made at the time.”
It was an excellent sketch. However, the problem was that the lines felt somewhat uneven.
That was why he tilted his head. He could see that it was different from the flaw of lines he had felt from another Raphael’s drawing.
The other appraisers must have felt that as well. That was probably why they couldn’t be sure if it was real, but they couldn’t conclude it as fake without any evidence, either.
That’s why the discussion of many people is needed to decide if a work of art is real, and a clear proof is required to conclude it as fake. Without any proof, it remains as unknown.
Haejin examined the painting for a long time, but he couldn’t find out which part felt so awkward. In the end, he decided to use magic.
He immediately used saliva to cast magic and look into the past, and…
Haejin grinned. Claudia then took a step toward him and asked, “Have you found out something?”
Haejin now knew why experts had been so confused by this painting. That’s why he couldn’t help but smile when he saw the past.
Instead of answering, he went behind the painting. Then, he carefully examined the wood board.
“What are you doing?” Claudia asked, but Haejin raised his hand.
“Do you have a flat-head screwdriver? If you don’t, a hard pen will do…”
“What on earth are you doing?” The woman asked again.
“I’m trying to appraise.”
Claudia was really mad now. She put her hands at her waist and snapped, “If this is real, how much do you think it would be? 10 million dollars? 20 million? The price will be beyond your imagination!”
“I’m an appraiser. I don’t know if Giorgio Sayor is your boss or an official in charge of you, but he acknowledged me, and Prince Sahmadi of the Arab Emirates didn’t question my abilities. Who do you think you are to protest about my appraising methods?”
“Huh! I’ve seen many appraisers so far. Among those who boasted in front of me, most turned out to be frauds. One left a handprint on a painting that was worth more than 10 million after trying to appraise it, and one almost dropped Michelangelo’s sculpture. Each of them argued that he or she was the best appraiser in the world, but… well, to me, they all looked the same.”
She explained that she had her reasons to doubt Haejin, but to him, it just sounded like nonsense.
“Then find someone else. I haven’t finished appraising yet. Don’t forget I can always get the cancellation fee and go back to Korea.”
Claudia clenched her fists and glared at Haejin.
“If you damage that painting even a little bit… I will throw you in jail in the local police station immediately.”
Haejin looked at her and straightened his back.
“Okay. I like bets, so let’s do this. I will not receive my fee if there’s a logical flaw to my conclusion, even if I don’t harm the painting. Of course, if I do harm the painting, I will neither resist nor ask the help of the Korean embassy as you drag me to the police station. But…”
Claudia lifted her chin as she waited for Haejin’s terms.
“If my conclusion is logically perfect, I want to take a slightly bigger fee.”
Claudia scolded him, “Ha! So, it was all about money, after all. How much do you want?”
“A million dollars, that should be enough.”
Actually, Haejin wanted to ask for something else other than money. For instance, the other artifacts that the criminals, who had stolen Raphael’s painting, had…
However, he asked for money because Claudia had no authorization to keep that promise.
They were Italian artifacts, and a researcher of the gallery couldn’t promise to give it to anyone.
On the other hand, money was different. It would be part of the operating funds of the Park Haejin Art Museum that was growing every day, and more money was always good. He would be able to buy more actively.
That was why getting more money was always good, but if Princess Hassena had been alive, Haejin would have walked away instead of negotiating about the fee.
“A million dollars? Are you mad?”
Unlike Haejin’s thought’s, Claudia glared at him clearly thinking that he was really mad, but Haejin didn’t care. He went back to Eunhae and prepared to leave.
“If you don’t want to accept that, let’s quit everything.”
The cancellation fee was about a million dollars. Either way, Claudia was about to lose that money, so she had every reason to get shocked, but Haejin wasn’t going to go easy on her.
“Okay. Let’s go and take a tour.”
Eunhae agreed in English and enraged Claudia even more. She eventually accepted.
“Fine. If you are so confident, let’s make that bet. Note that I cannot pay you if there’s the smallest flaw with your answer.”
“Whatever… then let’s fix the contract.”
They changed the contract right away, and Haejin started to appraise again.
Claudia focused on Haejin who had a screwdriver in his hand. Claudia was ready to stop him if he tried to harm the painting.
He carefully put it on a side of the wood board and broadened the gap. At that moment…
Claudia came in surprise, and Eunhae stopped her from disturbing Haejin. Then, another wood board was revealed little by little…
Eunhae let go of Claudia and came in surprise.
“This second wood board was attached after the drawing was made, right?”
“Yes,” Claudia calmed herself down quickly and coolly asked, “So what about it? It’s just a thin wood board added to the main board.”
A corner of Haejin’s lips curled up as he scolded her.
“It looks that way, of course. You might think that if you don’t know much about paintings.”
“What, what? You’re saying I don’t know much about paintings?”
Haejin slowly separated the drawing from the wood board and carefully showed her its back.
“If you are, you can’t say this is only a thin wood board.”
Claudia examined it carefully. Then, she frowned at finding a signature. She was trying to find out what it was, but her frown didn’t fade.
She couldn’t figure out who it belonged to.
“Why? You don’t know whose signature it is?”
“It doesn’t look like Raphael’s…”
It wasn’t Raphael’s, of course. However, she couldn’t be sure if the drawing was fake. She didn’t know who had written it and with what meaning.
“Just as I thought… you are not good enough.”
Haejin chided her while the woman’s face turned red. She looked up and spoke to Haejin.
“Stop that and tell me what kind of meaning this signature has and who wrote it. I hope you didn’t ask me without knowing it yourself?”
Of course not. However, Haejin was sure she was hoping for Haejin to not know it.
“There was a very famed workshop in Napoli in the 17th century. Do you know it?”
“A workshop? Are you trying to talk about its owner, Jusepe de Ribera?”
She had studied well, even though she wasn’t that good at appraising.
“Oho… so you know him.”
“Are you kidding me? So? What are you trying to say?”
“Ribera was making a painting influenced by Caravaggio when he ran a huge workshop in Napoli.”
At this, Eunhae spoke a word that was the answer.
Haejin gave her the thumbs-up and continued.
“Yes. There was no one else as good as Ribera among the Caravaggistis, followers of Caravaggio. And that Ribera had an apprentice, do you know him?”
Claudia was puzzled now, she couldn’t answer that question.
That was because she had focused on the restoration and preservation of artifacts instead of learning art history deeply, but still, she was humiliated.
“So, so what is the conclusion?” She yelled.
Haejin pointed at the signature at the back of the painting.
“This isn’t Raphael’s signature. This belongs to Luca Giordano, Riber’s favorite apprentice.”
Claudia turned pale. Haejin gave her the final sentence.
“Unfortunately, this painting isn’t Raphael’s. This is a forgery made by Luca Giordano. It’s a shame for the people of the Cultural Administration and you, but I think those criminals let you retrieve this on purpose, to screw you over.”