Reblogged from Jim Webster’s alter ego, Tallis Steelyard:
For a truly fine painter, it strikes me that Garl Furtling has been blamed for a number of improbable occurrences which in all candour were not his fault.
If you find this hard to believe I give you the example of ‘The bashful maiden.’ Garl painted the picture but left the face off so the lady in question couldn’t be identified. This apparently was the lady’s preference.
I thought it was a nice touch. It created an aura of mystery and far more people were interested in the work than otherwise. It has often occurred to me that old Garl is a poet at heart; he has a knack of making shrewd moves like this.
The problem is that he then had to travel to Avitas where a wealthy client was preparing to cover him in silver just to have her portrait painted. He probably assumed he’d be gone a month or so, but you know how it is? He was deluged with commissions. I remember him telling me that he’d never worked as hard as he did in Avitas; yet all the while Port Naain assumed he was merely caught up in what passes for a social whirl in the provinces.
To be fair to the folk of Avitas I think they handed over inordinate amounts of money and Garl was able to buy a small farm outside Port Naain on the strength of his earnings. Still, whatever the reason, Garl was not in Port Naain, and thus was not available to make definitive pronouncements about ‘The bashful maiden.’
Rumours did circulate as to the identity of the lady in the painting. More than one pillar of society hinted that it was actually her. Indeed even Mistress Bream got in the act, but given she wasn’t a day under eighty at the time, she did have the grace to confess that it was a picture Garl had painted of her a couple of decades before.
All in all, it was rather amusing, and between ourselves most people took it in good part. Whilst pretty well every society beauty eventually claimed that the picture was of her, they never argued or bickered over it. Claiming that you were ‘the bashful maiden’ was just one of the things a beauty had to do. You could no more be angry with a friend for also claiming it that you could be annoyed because like you she used Crème Céleste. (As an aside this is a mixture of rosewater, white wax, a small quantity of evaporated stallion’s water, spermaceti, and a dozen different nut oils. Everybody swears as to their blend of nut oil being the best.)
Continue reading at Tallis Steelyard