Chapter 186 – Terms of Return of Artifacts (3)
George de La Tour trained under the mannerism artist Jacques Bellange. He was fascinated by Caravaggio, one of the greatest Italian artists, and Hendrick Terbrugghen, who sought a change in mannerism. He then carried out their style.
When it comes to art history, mannerism is what succeeded the Renaissance art, but it also means developing your own unique style.
It is slightly different from the mannerism that means being obsessed with what one already has and not being able to progress.
Anyway, La Tour mainly painted folk paintings and religious paintings. He got even more famous in the 20th century after his death.
However, the painting Fina was staring at was a little strange.
It showed a lady with long and black hair. She was sitting silently in front of the candlelight as if she was meditating.
However, what mattered was the scribble on the left bottom side of the painting.
‘un escroc notoire’
Even though Haejin was a genius, he didn’t know French. So, he used his smartphone, and that line had very surprising meaning: a notorious crook.
With that kind of scribble, anyone who knew French would have thought the painting had little value, apart from its content.
Fina Williams looked at it for some time. Then, she stood up and spoke to Haejin, clearly impressed.
“Yes, I think it is his painting. I wondered why you were here because you were so young, but you have keen eyes.”
The test Haejin had set wasn’t about La Tour’s painting.
It was about the huge pot right next to Haejin.
However, although she had seen it, she didn’t give it another look.
“Is that candlelight the reason you thought it was La Tour’s?”
La Tour was great at controlling candlelight and its shades. He was even called the artist of candlelight. It was why Haejin had thought of La Tour when he first saw the painting.
“Yes, and there was another reason,” Haejin replied.
Fina raised her index and stopped him. She was going to find out the reason this time.
“Was it… that scribble?”
“Yes, it made me sure of it.”
Angelica couldn’t understand and asked, “That scribble is why you were convinced it was George de La Tour’s? But that is why we thought the painting wasn’t important…”
Fina stroked her shoulder as if she could understand her.
“Oh, Angelica, I can see why you thought so. but La Tour’s life was not like his paintings.”
“What do you mean?”
Fina looked at the painting again and explained, “His paintings are always calm. They are quiet, reserved, but arouses a strange curiosity. And they make us focus on the harmony of the light and darkness, especially ones with religious meanings.”
“You are right. That’s how I felt when I saw his paintings at the Louvre. I almost fell to meditation myself,” Angelica replied.
Fina continued, “La Tour’s religious paintings make us reflect on ourselves and repent. He must have needed deep thoughts and understanding of humanity. However, he was a very bad man who exploited the poor tenant farmers. He even practiced usury, used violence, and made his servants steal from others. That is why he met a tragic death.”
Angelica shook her head as if she couldn’t believe it while saying, “How could the man, who made this painting, be so evil… is that true? No, is that why the scribble was written?”
“It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? I almost felt betrayed when I studied about La Tour. His entire family was massacred in 1652, during the French civil war. Of course, it didn’t feel like something tragic to the people he had wronged…”
“That is surprising. Then one of those tenant farmers could have written this scribble?” Angelica asked.
“Maybe, or one of them asked a friend who knew how to write to write it for him,” Fina replied.
“Anyway, you just got La Tour’s painting, one with such history… it is a great fortune for Harvard. Congratulations.”
“I’m not the one who should be congratulated, the students are. But I do feel very happy about it…”
Angelica then looked at the painting with great affection.
She smiled so brightly that Haejin was surprised to find out that she did smile sometimes. Then, she turned to him and said, “Well done.”
Just one sentence. Even though they had made a deal and were fulfilling it, Haejin didn’t feel good about it. So, he also reacted somewhat bluntly.
He raised a hand at Angelica, then looked away again and crossed his arms.
Angelica smiled and went pass Haejin to leave.
Fina lightly bowed at Haejin and went after her.
Angelica saw Fina was right behind her and made a remark, “At least that Asian is good at his job.”
“He got lucky. As I said, the candlelight is like George de La Tour’s symbol. Plus, anyone who can read resentment in the scribble would think of La Tour. Honestly, I would say that painting hasn’t been discovered by now only because it wasn’t lucky. It was sent to that storage without proper research done on it… it has been a great loss for Harvard.”
Angelica frowned hard as she was sad about it as well.
“But we have been managing this place only with the personnel of the museum of natural history, so we had no choice. Good appraisers are way too expensive. Even the money to manage the museum for a whole year isn’t enough to have all those artifacts appraised,” Angelica replied.
“However, this deal isn’t that bad. Even though you are about to lose the Henderson Collection, you’ve got a chance to take out the slumbering artifacts into the world.”
“It all depends on that Asian appraiser’s skills. Hiring you wasn’t cheap, either.”
“Haha! You must know that I’m charging you much less than usual,” Fina replied.
“I’m aware of it. If I had asked you to do what he is doing now, you would have demanded a huge sum of money.”
Fina looked at Angelica and laughed, “Haha, I wouldn’t have accepted that kind of work. I cannot do such a thing all by myself, and I might be accused later if problems occur.”
“Oh… I never thought about that,” Angelica then said.
“Anyway, this treasure hunt is going smoothly. That young appraiser from Asia is quite good.”
While Fina and Angelica were laughing like that, Haejin was struggling with his own problem.
‘Should I tell them or not?’
That Fina Williams wasn’t different from the many appraisers he had seen when he traveled around the world with his father.
She was one of the not-so-good appraisers who didn’t know that white supremacy was blocking them from improving.
Of course, there couldn’t have been many appraisers as good as her. However, Haejin didn’t think he had to think highly of her as she didn’t respect him even after he found La Tour’s painting.
Of course, he thought it was a shame for such an artifact to be slumbering in a storage, but neither Fina nor Angelica were going to thank him even if he told them, so he had decided to tell them about a few decent other artifacts.
He had really planned so, but…
Four days later, he called Fina and Angelica. He couldn’t stay there more as he thought it was time to leave and go back to Korea.
Of course, he had decided on which artifacts to show them.
Additionally, he was planning to make them an offer without anyone knowing about it.
“You worked faster than I expected, I thought it would take at least a fortnight,” Angelica was doubting Haejin’s fast decision.
She was worried about Haejin showing her some artifacts that were not as good as the Henderson Collection.
“I, instead, feel like I have been rather late. I have made my decisions carefully, so you will probably like them.”
It took Haejin longer than he expected. According to his original plan, he should have taken a plane to Korea two days ago.
Of course, the women didn’t seem to trust him, especially Fina…
“You will probably have to change your mind about it. So, get rid of that idea of returning home soon and focus on your work here, Mr. Park. But as we are already here, we should take a look at what you have chosen, right?” Fina then walked past Haejin.
Haejin smiled and followed her while saying, “Do you, at least, know what I’m about to show you?”
Fina flinched and slowed down.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Please, lead the way.”
Haejin smiled and moved past her.
Fina bit her lips and then started following Haejin. Her clenched fists told how much she was offended.
Actually, she already had anticipated which artifacts Haejin would show her.
She had seen Haejin’s every move on CCTV. She knew what he had done with each artifact and how much time he had spent on it, so she thought she already knew enough about the storage.
She knew which artifact Haejin would show her, so she moved first in impatience… then Haejin pointed out.
Anyway, Fina and Angelica had already made plans on what to say about Haejin’s artifacts.
However, Haejin stopped where they hadn’t anticipated at all.
“Here is one of the two remaining artifacts I found.”
Haejin had already found La Tour’s painting for them, so he only had to find two more to end the deal.
Haejin stopped at area B4. Fina and Angelica looked at each other, clearly confused.
Haejin had never spent much time in area B4. He had spent less than 3 minutes on each of the artifacts there, so Fina and Angelica hadn’t paid attention to B4.
However, Haejin didn’t know this, so he couldn’t see why they looked so confused.
He was just relieved to know that Fina Williams wasn’t that good as an appraiser.
“Yes, it’s this painting.”
Haejin then pointed at a landscape painting.
There was not even a single person. Instead, you could see a swamp in a quiet forest. The trees, grass, and the swamp had all been depicted quite realistically.
“Whose painting is this?” Since the painting had no signature, Fina asked.
However, Haejin just smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
It meant Fina had to find out by herself.
She then stood in front of the painting while looking grim.
Fina would greatly humiliate herself if she failed to find out the artist’s name, so her heart was beating fast.
However, Haejin really didn’t care about it.
“Oh, I’m just asking this out of curiosity, but… what if the artifact I show you is worth more than ten million dollars… of course, I’m just hypothetically speaking… what would you do?” Haejin abruptly asked as he looked at Fina doing her best to appraise.