Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories
The Big Picture - A Letter From Fresser
A letter dating from before Fresser's exile. The correspondent is otherwise unknown.
I hope your exile in the pestilent backwater isn't weighing too heavily on you. How are things in Pavis? Tragic news here in Glamour. The painter Scriptonis has died leaving his masterpiece unfinished. Priests and priestess were instructed by Moonson himself to try and resurrect him so that he could finish it but after much effort and at least one death from among their own number they were forced to report to Moonson that his soul was nowhere to be found. The rumour spreads already that his soul went into his masterwork as his life surely did. I'm sure you know who and what I'm writing about but just in case you don't I will refresh your memory.
No offense but you have never struck me as the cultured sort so forgive me if I bore you too much. You know the imperial galleries where the greatest masterworks extolling the virtues of our great empire and emperor reside? Many of these works hail from Jillaro of course. Well the new centrepiece of the great collection now is of course the painting, Glory of the Empire. And how could it not be? The greatest painting in all of Glorantha I am sure. 52 meters wide and seven meters high. With an astonishing and breathtaking degree of detail depicting the history of the empire from the Birth of the Goddess to nearly the present day. I know of heroes of the empire who have seen the painting and been stunned to see their own exact likeness in the painting despite never having sat for the artist. Certainly an inspiration of the Goddess herself
Alas, never to be finished now. They have already removed the scaffolding and allowed the public in. They have had to hire special Uz attendants to watch the gallery patrons lest they become lost in their admiration of the painting. The Uz are immune to the painting's glories due to their poor vision but they have had to be carefully trained to recognize the signs of what is being called "painting absorption". The first day the whole painting was revealed to the world they discovered that people can lose all acknowledgement of the world around them, lost in trying to take in all the details. I imagine the poor fools would have starved to death. Painters have been denied access to the gallery after the first three suicides. Guards have to manage the long lineups and the Teelo Norri sisters feed and look after those who now permanently live in line.
None of this is surprising considering that the artist himself had to have attendants at all times to ensure that he kept himself fed and watered. I can remember going to the gallery while Scriptonis was alive and realised that he was totally engrossed in his work. His attendants could wash and feed him and he would totally ignore them. He voided his bowels and urinated without any thought and they were forced to keep him and the gallery clean. He was totally oblivious to anything other than the painting itself. The gallery was kept lit and heated at all hours and he normally painted nude so as to make keeping him clean easier. He had no interest in food or sex and was fed a watery but nutrious gruel contrived by Beat-Pot Aewlrin himself. He would not even acknowledge the presence of Moonson himself! And Moonson tolerated this!
An amazing character, Scriptonis. He was born in a Teelo Norri orphanage and at an early age he was found to be prodigiously talented at art. He was sent into fosterage with the one of greatest artists of Jillaro, Kitaris the Sketcher for formal training. Not that he needed much training. It is said that Kitaris took one look at Scriptonis' merest sketches and broke into tears. Both for the beauty of the work and the fact that he, in his greatest finished work could not attain to such beauty.
It is said that during his career, Scriptonis never finished a single work yet what he did do was so beautiful and skillful that he won the admiration of all and envy of many. A mere sketch from his hand can make your heart break with longing. It is said that he never finished any works because he was searching for a subject that was worthy of his talents. He finally found it at the age of 16 when Moonson who had seen his earliest work personally commissioned him to paint a history of the Empire.
At first the painting was going to be a large mural but then Scriptonis switched to a canvas. He consulted with no one about the topic or the matter, not even Moonson who trusted him implicitly. At first the canvas was to be 3 metres by 8 metres but Scriptonis' inspiration drove him to ever bigger canvases. Finally the Imperial College of Magicians had to be commissioned to come up with a magical means of supporting such a huge canvas. It took Scriptonis twelve years to complete just the cartoon. That's what the preliminary outline sketch of a painting is called.
A special gallery had to be constructed to house it, itself a masterpiece of architecture that all ignore in favour of the glory of the painting. Scaffolding was erected as I mentioned earlier. It is said that Moonson has made a special pact with the Young Elementals so that neither fire, nor earth, nor air, nor water, nor darkness could damage the painting but I doubt this is true. A special ramp has replaced the scaffolding allowing access to the entire painting. Special magical lenses allow close inspection despite your distance from the canvas.
What is it about? Well, as I wrote earlier it starts with the Birth of the Goddess and proceeds from left to right depicting events in Lunar history. It is said that Scriptonis had little formal education yet no scholar has been found who can give fault to his sequence or depiction of the events. But the true mastery of the painting is to be found in the detail. Every square centimetre is covered by images. Just yesterday during my allotted hour at the canvas, Moonson having decreed that no one is allowed longer access due to the danger, I was entranced by a small protion of the canvas that depicted mice having a picnic!
So as I said, a tragedy. After 71 years of work it remains unfinished with a corner of the painting remaining nothing more than the cartoon. After much consultation with experts from Jillaro and elsewhere Moonson has decreed that like the Empire the painting will remain unfinished. And already the rumors spread that as each year unfolds the painting finishes itself slowly!
Yours as always,
This page last modified January 16, 2003
Last updated September 25, 2016
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