“What do you mean? I think that painting is a fake?”
“If you don’t, then it’s strange. All the other paintings are hanging on the wall and each one of them
has individual lights. Only this painting is leaning against the wall on the floor, isn’t that strange?”
Eric looked at the painting and answered.
“I might just don’t like that painting. Or have put it down to hang it in a different place…”
“Let’s be honest. You don’t think it is Ilya Repin’s painting, right?”
Ilya Repin was the best realistic artist in Russia. He was always critical about the systemic paradox
and social evil of the empirical Russia, and he actively expressed this through his works.
The painting that was leaning against the wall was Ilya Repin’s painting of the Grand Duchess, Sophia
Sophia was the sister of Peter the Great. She ruled Russia for seven years as the regent and tried to
become the Tsar herself. However, she lost to Peter the Great and his men, she was then locked in
Novodevitch Convent for 15 years.
Before she died, she witnessed her subjects and 1,700 guards get killed. Additionally, the head
hanging outside the window in the painting was one of the hanged guards.
It told us why the duchess looked so angry although she was wearing the pearl necklace, jewels and
a luxurious silk dress.
“Hmm… I cannot fool you. Yes, I bought this painting within three months of starting to live in this
house and leaving my parents.”
“Were you already rich then?”
“Rich? Hahaha! Oh, sorry. No one asks it so straightforwardly to me. Yes, my father bought me this
house when I moved out.”
Haejin almost hit Eric’s face in envy.
“This is why the world can never be fair.”
“I admit that. Anyway, because of my father, I am interested in art. I am not good at drawing, but I like
enjoying the paintings. I participated in Sotheby’s auction in England and got to know about this
painting through someone I knew.”
“You didn’t know about this painting at the time?”
“Yes, I didn’t know much in the past, and I just wanted to own many works of art like my father. You
know, the useless pride and rebellious spirit… it was like that.”
“Did you regret buying it afterward?”
“No, it was the first painting I bought. I was humiliated when I showed this to others later, but I couldn’t
get rid of it because it was the first painting I bought. It also allowed my interest to live for paintings for
a while. So, I included it in my collection, but I just left it there to be passed by. When someone
“You told that person it’s a fake and you should see the other things?”
Eric was a little ashamed. He looked away and laughed.
“Haha, I did. But you’re saying it’s not a fake? It can’t be. The real is in Tretyakov Gallery in Russia, so
there’s no way this is real.”
Although he said it couldn’t be real, his face had some hope. He was thinking Haejin would not have
said that it was real for no reason.
“It is known that Sophia Alekseyevna was fat and short. However, the lady of the painting in Tretyakov
Gallery is tall, unlike her! But in this painting, Sophia is small as if she has been downsized.”
“That’s because… Ilya Repin tried to describe her with dignity.”
“Yes, but the first painting was not like that.”
Eric took a step closer.
“Huh? What do you mean? The first painting?”
“After Ilya Repin drew this painting, he showed it to the people of the upper class of the time. He had
many friends. However, a few said it didn’t look nice because the duchess was too small. There was
“So, he drew another painting?”
“Yes, and his second painting is exhibited at the gallery now. I heard Repin hid the first painting
because he was ashamed of it, and it was here.”
Eric looked back at the painting and stared at it. It could be because he couldn’t fully believe Haejin,
or because he was filled with emotions after hearing that it was real.
“How do you know that? I’ve never heard of this story.”
That was also because of the old lady Haejin’s father met in Italy. She showed them many artifacts
and told secret stories that were unknown to the art world with a delicious dinner.
“I heard it from the Verni Family in Florence. The current head of the family is Olivia Verni. She is over
70. She liked my father very much and kept us for days to talk about art.”
“Verni… yes, I’ve heard of them. It’s a big family, although not as much as the Medici.”
“She has a record about Repin’s paintings of the time, so if you go and ask, she will tell you the truth.”
Eric went to the painting, knelt, and carefully lifted it.
“I have done all kinds of appraising after I heard it was a fake. Do you see the spot without paint
There was a spot without paint in the dark background.
“I removed some paint to use the radiocarbon dating method. It turned out that it was drawn in the late
19 th century or early 20 th century, but that was it. I checked if the craquelure had been overlayered and
forged with ultraviolet, but there was nothing wrong. However, I could tell this to no one.”
In fact, that often happened with fakes. Only non-experts would think that scientific appraisal can
discover every fake.
Forgers know what kind of scientific tests their works would go through, so they come up with
methods to defeat the high-end scientific tests.
Some forgers even fabricate evidence or implant them so that appraisers would be confused.
Some scientific methods can only tell the date of the materials instead of the date of the painting itself,
so forgers acquire ingredients that were only used in certain eras, mostly the paint.
Forgers with worldwide fame(?) think making creative paints of their own is only natural.
So, Eric Holton could not argue that the painting was real, even though the scientific tests proved
there was nothing wrong.
“That could happen, but now you can confidently say this is real.”
“First, I will have to go to the Verni Family and check. If I find that record, I will call the friends who
humiliated me and pay them back.”
Eric looked delighted as if he was already working on a plan for vengeance.
“Then, will you send me the painting?”
Haejin asked with worry. Eric shrugged and went to Kim Hongdo’s painting.
“Actually, I was going to give you this painting when you wanted it. I just wanted to see how you would
“That’s too mean!”
Eunhae protested, but Eric laughed as he pulled off the painting from the wall.
“It’s funny. I also got to find out that my duchess Sophia, although fat, is not fake. If it hadn’t been for
that, that pal would have just glanced at it and left. Don’t you think so?”
Haejin couldn’t argue. As Eric said, if the situation hadn’t been so urgent, he would have just thought
about the duchess’ painting and left without talking about it.
“I cannot say that’s not true. Anyway, ‘my duchess Sophia’… you have quite an unusual taste.”
That was a joke, but surprisingly, Eric nodded and agreed.
“My mom was just like that. She was always angry. So, that painting reminds me of her. Well, let’s
stop talking about boring things and go up. We should write the certificate.”
Certificates were necessary to go back to Korea with the painting. Without it, Haejin would be arrested
as an artifact smuggler and put behind bars.
Eric called his lawyer. While they waited, they ate dinner cooked by Eric’s personal chef. Eric
suddenly recalled something and pointed at Haejin with his fork.
“Don’t forget what I told you earlier.”
“What you told me earlier? I don’t understand…”
Haejin blinked. Eric smiled and answered.
“About helping me at the auction. They will keep an eye on you from now on.”
“If you think about it, things are strange. Why did they let you reveal that the painting is fake? If they
thought it was a fake, they could have canceled your bid. Or, if they weren’t sure, they could have left
you behind to check…”
Eunhae, who had been elegantly cutting steak, tilted her head.
“I couldn’t think about it as the situation changed fast, but now that I think about it, it is indeed
Eric wiped his mouth with the napkin and seriously said, “Actually, I didn’t go to the auction to win a
painting. You remember that I suspected them because of the painting I bought before? In fact, I went
there to see what kind of paintings would come out this time because of it. However, there was my
favorite artist’s, Rembrandt, painting. So, I got excited and bid…”
“But it was a fake.”
The story was quite interesting. Eunhae also wiped her mouth and focused.
“Yes. Anyway, I needed time to think. Ten million dollars is a huge sum of money, but I wouldn’t die
without it. So, I went out and thought that maybe I could use this as a chance to lure them in.”
“Lure them in how?”
“It’s simple. A lawsuit. A big and a loud one… I wondered what kind of people they were, so I wanted
to drag them into the light.”
Eunhae shook her head as if she couldn’t understand.
“It’s not like no one had ever sued them before. I know that a wealthy company owner family once
Eric shook his index finger at Eunhae like a hero of a movie.
“You don’t know things well. No one ever sued them before. If there was a problem about a fake, they
solved it by having a discussion. Oh, I don’t know exactly what that talk was about. All I know is that…
the people who bought fakes neither sued them nor tried to get any compensation.”
“It makes no sense!”
“It makes sense. If they threaten me to not let me participate in the next auction, I would think about it
a lot. Whether to give up ten million dollars or go through a lawsuit that I might win or not. Ten million
is big but giving up all the fantastic paintings that would be on their auctions in the future… that is
more painful than you think.”
Eunhae could understand that. She nodded.
“Anyway, I made up my mind and went in making a fuss. It is important to notice that I was very loud.
The eyes and mouths of the powerful people in that room were as important as the media. They,
however, reacted in an unexpected way. They let me reveal the fake in front of everyone. It turned out
to be a fake and I didn’t lose my ten million dollars, but…”
“You lost the pretext to sue them.”
“Yes, I got my money back, but my plan failed. I think the reason they acted unusually today is you.”
Eric looked into Haejin’s eyes.
“They changed their strategy when they realized the story of a fake went around. Anyway, what I am
trying to say is this; they will certainly react. If that happens, call me. You might not be able to handle
them on your own.”
“You are helping me?”
Eric heard the doorbell ringing and stood up.
“My lawyer is here, and I am the one who’s asking for help. My curiosity is killing me. I must find out
who they are.”
He spoke as if he wanted to find out who they were just because he was curious about it, but Haejin
thought there had to be more reasons that he was not telling them. He wondered what it was, but he
didn’t ask. One day, Eric would tell him.
The day Haejin came to Korea with the painting, he went into Byeongguk’s shop. He was excited to
see Sujeong and Byeongguk get surprised by the new painting he got.
“Oh, you’re here.”
It had been a while, but Sujeong didn’t even look up. Haejin carefully put down the painting and went
closer. She was concentrating on a broken celadon.
“What is that?”
“Oh, this? Someone asked me to restore it…”
“What? It’s a celadon. Where did you get it?”