Saturday 28th January
The Decorator hesitated for a moment; then he spoke “But Sir, I cannot paint. I mean – I can paint a wall or a ceiling or a door. But I have never painted a picture, let alone a portrait.”
The Chamberlain smiled. “His majesty knows that, but we have a problem. He was betrothed to the Lady Miranda when he was 12 and she just 9. He has never seen her and now that she is 16 he must marry or bring shame on her whole family. But the King is young and headstrong. He refuses to wed until he sees his bride; he values Beauty over Duty. You are commissioned to decorate the Lady Miranda’s private quarters I understand”
“Yes, but she, or rather I, will be screened off. A movable partition of sheets will be hung to prevent even me seeing her accidentally while I work.”
“Well, you will just have to do your best. Try to catch sight of her and on your return paint her image for his Majesty.”
The decorator was frightened, but what could he do. Refusal could result in death; an un-flattering portrait – the King’s wrath. Besides he had never painted a picture before. He had never tried, he was a humble decorator.
His commission began and despite his best efforts he was constantly shielded from the merest glimpse of the Lady; all he could hear was her voice. Like a vibrant mountain stream it glided and trickled gently over moss-covered rocks. He was captivated, entranced and bewitched. Returning home he mixed his colours and in broad passes he filled the canvas with wide and bold brush strokes, delicately feathering the colours into each other. Gentle sunrise yellows snuggled up to soft pinks and curved around clouds of Magenta and Alizarine crimson; soft purple billows bled into humming-bird blue. No-one had ever painted anything like it, but the decorator knew that he had captured her voice and her soul.
The Chamberlain was horrified when he saw the decorator’s work. “This is appalling, the King asked for a portrait, not this mess of hideous colours”
“I am sorry, but it was the best I could do – besides, I think she is lovely.”
When the king saw the painting he demanded to see the decorator. “What does this mean? I asked for a portrait, I can see no image here.”
“Sir, I am a humble decorator. I never saw the Lady once – all I heard was her beautiful soft voice. And, your Majesty, that is what I painted.”
“It is quite incredible I must admit, such colours, such vibrancy. If she is any way as beautiful and as colourful as her voice here, I will marry her. But this painting must be removed to my private chambers at once. No-one else must see this. Ever. Now be gone quick before I change my mind.”