The Medici family, now Dukes of Tuscany, no longer bankers but very rich because of their closeness with various Popes, also bought religious paintings in which they starred as characters, such as the Magi in The Adoration of Christ. Petrus had no difficulty selling what he painted … there were no iconoclasts here … there seemed to be an unending market for his paintings throughout Italy from head to toe especially as he became known. He never met the buyers since they sent a trusted servant to his workshop to buy on their behalf and sometimes the servant brought a painting of his master so that it could be included in the next canvas. They must have been satisfied with what he produced because they bought more.
It wasn’t all work for Petrus of course. When he was not painting in Lombardy and Tuscany he also learnt the beauty of rolling Italian landscapes as he moved from town to town and he resolved to bring them home in his paintings to the flat country of Flanders as Pieter Brueghel had done.
He also came to know the Tuscan girls who were hired as models: sometimes elegant, sometime sluttish, but always dark, mysterious and warm. “Ciao” and a smile was ample introduction. He learnt to transfer their mystery to paintings as if they were on the streets of ancient Rome or they were temptresses in distant history or they were simply young women in the warm streets of a village in Tuscany. Often he painted them as simple unclothed beauty. These nudes could not be sold openly unless he called them Venus but he treasured some for himself.
Petrus didn’t know much Italian but he grinned a lot and that seemed to work. He enjoyed the models’ company especially over a glass of vino after the painting was done. “Ciao, Petrus,” they would say, as they snuggled up to him. They loved his mop of unruly fair hair and never seemed to tire of ruffling it.
One, Angelina with tousled jet-black hair, reminded him of Neelke. He painted her often and one night, the first night, when they both had a little too much wine they no longer needed a mastery of any language but love. Petrus found that Angelina’s body and breasts became more real in his paintings after his hands had traced their imagery in the privacy of lovemaking.
They were inseparable … Even when she wasn’t modeling, Angelina would sit in his studio to watch him paint. She even offered advice laughingly, “My hips aren’t that large” and she showed what she meant.
The Tuscan words, when they came, were inadequate in describing his feelings so he painted them. He painted Angelina combing her hair when she had first risen. He painted Angelina when she was smiling and laughing after a good meal and a glass of wine. He painted Angelina when she was sleepy … half asleep and half awake. He painted Angelina when she was angry. He painted Angelina washing in the courtyard.
The portraits were so different from Flemish religious prescriptions and even Flemish market prescriptions that he knew that, finally, he was becoming a painter. He was both conveying reality and his own feelings intertwined. Even Caravaggio approved of his paintings of Angelina. “Sono reali, (They are real)” he said. Petrus knew that this was the highest of compliments because Caravaggio had invented reality in painting.
Thus, it was miserable when Petrus came to leave. Angelina cried and screamed and shouted and begged him to stay and then cried again. She said a lot of things he didn’t understand but her eyes told him everything. He was almost persuaded.
Yet leave he must. He had already been away ten months and this was neither his land nor his life. The months had passed so quickly but he was anxious to see Neelke and to demonstrate all that he had learned to Verhofstadt, Herman, Paul, and the others.
He said good-bye to all his new friends … often with tears. Many also wanted to send good wishes to Pieter Brueghel who had made a good impression a few years earlier. Fillide Minniti packed so much food for his journey that it was almost more then his mule could carry together with a number of his small canvases. Petrus felt he was leaving home all over again.
He assembled his baggage including his Flemish quilted jacket that he hadn’t worn for months in Tuscany. He would certainly need that in the north.
There was still one problem. He quickly recognized that the only available horse to take him north was the devil that had brought him south in the first place. So it was. The horse and he had their battles again and Petrus was often surprised again to discover that he was himself on his back on a muddy trail through the forests. The horse always managed to catch him unawares. However this time the journey was quicker because Petrus was returning home with something valuable … knowledge … and the desire to teach it to his friends.
Several times bandits accosted him and sometimes Petrus and his group evaded them. Once when he had left his fellow travelers to make a few more miles that evening, he could not evade their sudden appearance from the forest. The ruffians surrounded him and one knocked him off his horse, held a knife to his throat, and rifled through his belongings. When they found that all he seemed to be carrying on the mule were a few small painted pictures they held them up to the sky and laughed at them. They mocked him for wasting time on such trifles and then they left. They didn’t find the leather purse of gold coins that was bound between his mule’s hind legs.
When they had left, he found the paintings were fortunately not damaged except that one villain, who, he had noticed, had been silent during the attack, had made off with a small portrait of Angelina. It showed her lying unclothed, outspread and relaxed on a bench surrounded by flowers under the warmth of the Tuscan sun. He had painted just before he made love to her in the open air.
At first he was distraught because it was his favorite painting and his favorite memory. But, thinking about the theft a few days later, Petrus thought that the theft was for the best. It would have been difficult to explain the passion in that painting and the inviting light in Angelina’s eyes. “She was just one of the models,” might not have satisfied Neelke.
After that adventure, the journey became easier as he rode north through France beyond Lyons. Occasionally, he would stop by a stream in the mountains to sketch scenery for a later painting. He tried to raise his viewpoint and look down at the scene as Da Vinci had done, or see it in terms of its colors as Tinteretto did.
Then after a while, the horse would wander over and nudge his sketching hand. It had decided that it was time to be fed, or to move on. Once when he pushed the horse’s muzzle away to continue his sketching, the horse carefully and deliberately stood on his foot. After that he was careful to take the nudge for what it was … an order, not a request.
How this episode fits in the Versmissen story.
To read where Petrus originated and how he reached Italy you need to read Versmissen 1. Petrus and to read how Angelina caused him danger later on and yet fulfilled his life and the life of his son, Jacobus', you need to read all seven parts of the Versmissen Short books, all available at Amazon.com for just 49¢. On payment you simply download your own copy or keep it in your permanent Amazon media library.
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