THE ART MAN – 1
THE PICTURE OF JESUS
A look of recognition, the sun streaming making abstract shapes on the new, suspended ceiling, a Miro!
She stepped through the door, I harboured a good feeling, a pantechnicon crashed past blocking the sun intermittently and heading south
The light in the shop flickered as though the fluorescents by the door needed a new starter, nothing like the fireworks that were to follow after
I disappeared from view into the cool, half-lit stock room where we stored piles of Beswick, Coopercraft and other gifty boxes
In the corner, stored safely in large, manilla bags, some wrapped in corrugated – the completed, framing orders waited
She seemed a fragile and inconsequential soul but for all that, obviously she loved some kind of Jesus
She had seemed damaged by religion, fragile, emotional, somewhat irrational I thought but you have to appear non-judgemental
Yet the way now that she was standing at the counter made me nervous, the expectation was tangible, though the lights had stopped their flashing
I try to put my customers at ease, you must use so much discretion, send the message in your eyes, ‘we only aim to please’
Two weeks before she had bought it in, a triangular thing knotted at the back, in texture and in colour, a monks habit, a hessian sack
‘Its a picture of our Lord’, I could tell, ‘you’ll take great care of it I hope’, I thought I heard her say – those words always make your day!
Well, what can you say? ‘Lets get down on our knees and pray?’ I mentioned it to Michael as I always thought to do
The traffic outside was noisy, light played again over the pictures on the wall – a Turner, a Gainsborough, an Utrillo, a random bag of daubs
I questioned with myself should I tell her no, just tell her where to go or try to sort it out, leave Michael to decide
Michael, he retorted she’s pulled the stitches far too tight – I’ll have to damp it, stretch it, see if it comes out all right.
Michael calls on Fridays, before the weekend-trade, Saturdays always are the busy day, busy people just got paid
We unpacked her tapestry almost as the golden sun streamed through our picture window for the first time that day
And Jesus shone, the lumps had gone, the triangle square, I in awe of total transformation, a miraculous resurrection
How does it look?, her question was intense as I peeled back the sellotape and pulled her Jesus from the bag – ‘I think you will be pleased’
I’m sure the sun only shines through that window and it was hot, hell-hot, I never saw a face so changed, so anguished
Mary Magdalene, by Raphael did not paint such a joyless study, her face, by observation, replaced by Dante’s view of Hades in Van Eyck’s ‘Last Judgement’
This needlepoint disciple, her chagrin broke, her face contorted, Saint Peter spoke, hot spears of tears squeezed out from her eyes
‘What has he done?’ she lamented, like my Jeremiah, a cardboard poster I kept of Rembrandt’s famous study, I considered him my buddy
I used my Jeremiah to back my daily sales graph, it hung on the store-room door, I tried to reason, ‘Honestly, our framer really could have done no more’
It was twisted, it was pulled, it had almost been de-wooled, out of shape, wouldn’t budge – the work that Michael did was splendrous, Jesus, please defend us
The customer is always right, this poor creature’s face now ashen-white, blushing in the cheeks, where a women’s tears will always make you guilty
A monochrome in grief, despite my disbelief, she tugged at my conscience as I had tugged relentlessly at her abysmal tapestry, with no joy!
‘I don’t know what to say, I’m not sure you understand, what my picture-framer has achieved is quite beyond belief’
Her attitude had changed from sad to sassy, there was definitely more behind this complicated lassie, ‘I hate it!’ she cried.
Well, here comes the great capitulation, not the famed oil of Velazquez 1635, just one more dent in my jaundiced view of humanity
Standing behind my oak and plate glass counter I offered now this little weeper to send it back or make it cheaper – she took it cheaper
The Pillars of Deceit by Michael Lang come to mind, so was the broken lady really so cast down? Could I tell my framer his work had been maligned?
And how can Jesus happy be in a cheeper casing, how can this lady sleep at night with her Jesus hanging, stretched and mounted on her wall?