Submitted into Contest #185 in response to: Set all or part of your story in a jam-packed storage unit.... view prompt

1 comment

Black Mystery Crime


Richard, who had always been a framer, had begun to collect every work of painting that he happened to find or that he could afford to buy since, for almost a long time now, with the advent of contemporary art, painting seemed a forgotten practice, certainly no longer considered an art. If you continued to paint in the era of installations and video art you were at best a craftsman, certainly not an artist. But you could also be considered a troglodyte or a poor fool.

Richard had always been passionate about painting, any kind of painting, even if he preferred the figurative to the abstract and the painting of the centuries before the 20th century.

In addition to buying the works of those outdated who continued to paint and that sold for little money, painters that he knew for a long time thanks to his trade ____even if by now he happened to make frames almost only for photographs, for posters ….and even for clothes and pieces of fabric, certainly not for paintings ____he had given himself a great deal of effort to search in the flea markets and in the second-hand shops. And, of course, he rushed every time an attic was emptied and also at every move there in his town he heard about. ( he learned of).

He had happened to find panels and canvases, paintings and small pictures anything but contemptible workmanship in old chests and wardrobes that the owners wanted to get rid of, which they threw away. So within a few years, the warehouse adjacent to his frame shop was crammed with paintings on canvas, on wood, on cardboard of all sizes.

Richard was very jealous of his treasure and as a rule, he did not allow anyone to enter there to browse. Also because the few who did it repeated to him that he was accumulating junk that he would never find to sell. He would have found himself swamped with junk. Richard did not listen to them. For him, his collection of paintings was a priceless treasure. It didn’t matter if it had no monetary value, if it wasn’t marketable. After all, he hadn’t collected all those paintings to sell them but to keep them with him, they kept him company and were a testimony of the now neglecting painting. By now no one was painting seriously anymore. In fact, most of his paintings collected or accumulated dated back to the 1900s, 1800s, and even earlier centuries.

Richard said that he wanted TO SAVE THE PAINT FROM THE DUST OF TIME, he wanted to keep it alive.

One of the few to whom he had allowed access to his warehouse crammed with paintings was Professor Eduard Scholtz, a distinguished art historian who spent many hours amidst the stacked works, shuddering at certain abominations, that is, crusts made without any expertise, even without any grace, and yet also marveling, from time to time, to find ancient paintings which, however in need of restoration, would not have disfigured in the private collection of an art expert like him, which could have been exhibited in a museum too.

It was Professor Scholtz who “discovered” that modestly sized canvas that Richard had bought for little money from a second-hand dealer without looking at it carefully and forgetting it sunk (bundled) among the other paintings.  This painting was really unique, almost eccentric. With the angel swooping, wings outstretched, before the Madonna seated on a rock, one would have said it was a fifteenth or sixteenth-century Annunciation. But the Madonna had a ball of wool on her lap, on which she rested a hand. And this was a detail that no painter of the fifteenth or sixteenth century would have placed in an Annunciation. It seemed rather an addition by a twentieth-century painter. But even more than by the ball of wool in Madonna’s lap the professor was enchanted by the angel which he thought was of Caravaggio workmanship. From the wings of the angel flowers sprouted: roses and carnations. The professor had to work hard to get Richard’s permission to take that painting away with him to submit it to the examination of a group of experts.

Richard didn’t even consider the possibility to sell it, not even at a high price. To deliver the painting to Professor Scholtz he demanded a receipt in which the Professor undertook to return the painting to him within two weeks. And they, Richard and Professor Scholtz, went to a notary to seal the agreement.

A week after he had taken the painting from Richard’s storage Professor Scholtz was killed while he was traveling by train from Paris to Rome. It was said it was a robbery. The painting with the flower-winged angel disappeared, and Richard was very sorry for it. Perhaps the Professor had it with him when he was robbed and killed, but no one talked about the painting.

After all, Richard couldn’t even think that Professor Scholtz might have been killed to steal that painting from him. Albeit with great embarrassment, he contacted the Professor’s wife and son and, through them, even illustrious colleagues of the late Professor to ask them about his painting. He also showed them photos of the painting. But none of them knew anything about it. They all told him they had never seen it. Richard had to resign himself to the loss of one of his pieces of painting.

Years passed. Richard continued to accumulate paintings in his increasingly overcrowded warehouse. Sometimes he still happened to think, with great regret, of that painting that he had entrusted to Professor Scholtz and which had disappeared.

Then one day, by chance, that very picture appeared to him on his computer. What an emotion to see it again! That painting was of him! The news he read was incredible. That painting

 had been sold by a prestigious auction house for ten million dollars. It was said that the painting was a real rarity as it had been painted at different successive times. The Madonna had been painted by Lorenzo Lotto and the angel with flowery wings by Caravaggio. The ball of wool on Madonna’s lap was painted by Cezanne.


February 12, 2023 17:26

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Jester Patatoe
01:06 Feb 22, 2023

Great job!


Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.