The painter, John Lawrence, greets Inglorion at the studio door by surveying him critically from queue to boots. He says in a marveling tone, “Good God, you’re fucking perfect.”
“Why, thank you.”
“Come in. I’ll make you tea and explain my vision.”
Lawrence steps back, admitting Inglorion into a single, high-ceilinged room. The west and east walls consist entirely of full-length windows, and Inglorion counts four skylights. There’s a scattering of furniture intended for the use of models rather than for human interaction. One corner is blocked off with a Japanese screen to form a dressing room; another contains a tea-table, armchairs and a spirit stove. The table is cluttered with overflowing ashtrays, grimy teacups, and enough crusts and discarded biscuits to support a thriving mouse population.
Lawrence puts the kettle on and picks through the cups and saucers. “Do you smoke?”
“I’ve quit,” says Inglorion. “You go ahead.”
They each take a wing chair, and Lawrence continues to survey his visitor. His gaze is leisurely, and frankly appraising. Even as he prepares and hands over the tea, he scrutinizes Inglorion’s hands and wrists, his throat and collarbones. The artist himself is human, and handsome in a florid style. His curly blond locks lend him a cherubic air, though from the style of his neckcloth and black velvet smoking jacket, Inglorion suspects he’s aiming for the Byronic. He wears a blush-colored carnation pinned to one lapel, and a profusion of rings in amber and peridot.
Inglorion accepts a teacup, takes a sip, and asks, “What’s your vision?”
“You’re familiar with Sir Joshua Reynolds’s style, of course, and the portrait of your father. Reynolds was an excellent craftsman, one of the great painters of his era. For some time I’ve wanted to produce a portrait in direct dialog with his work — to reproduce one of his paintings in an entirely fresh and modern style. His work is stylized, idealized. I’m aiming for something beautiful, but naturalistic. A true portrait of the model, not a mythologized depiction.”
Inglorion nods politely.
“The difficulty is the lack of a sitter. It’s impossible to produce a naturalistic portrait without access to the original model.”
“So I’m to sit in for Tereus Shelawn?”
“It’s an imperfect solution, but an interesting one.”
“And if I don’t choose to be portrayed in the guise of a gray elvish military commander?”
Lawrence chuckles. “My dear, why would you object?”
“Tereus Shelawn was the commander of an allied army, over six feet tall, and the richest man in Liamelia. I’m sure your work will stand up to Reynolds’s best efforts, but I’d be a fool to invite comparisons with my father.”
They argue for some time. Because of his growing fame, Lawrence is accustomed to putting on airs: He sulks, rages, and runs his fingers through his golden hair. He implores Inglorion to aid him in creating what could be a masterpiece. He promises to burnish Inglorion’s reputation, and to grant him immortality, at least in art circles. Inglorion steadily, laughingly refuses.
After an hour of argument they’re at a standoff, with Lawrence insisting that Inglorion refuses to take the process seriously, and Inglorion shrugging and admitting that he doesn’t. Inglorion finally says, “Look, if you’re going to smoke, then roll me one, too. I’ve quit, but I’m not made of stone.”
“I should throw you out,” says Lawrence bitterly as he sprinkles tobacco on paper, rolls it up, and seals it with a swipe of his tongue.
“Yeah, you should,” says Inglorion. He accepts the lit cigarette, takes a long drag. His lashes flutter, and he groans, “Oh, fuck, that’s great. Quitting is amazing, because you get to start again.”
Meanwhile Lawrence snatches up a sketchpad and charcoal stick, and says, “Hold it right there.” Within moments, he’s produced a charming line drawing of Inglorion lounging in a wing chair, looking dreamy and amused.
Inglorion surges forward to examine it and says naively, “It’s very like. Though my legs are kind of crowded there at the bottom of the sheet.”
“Yes, yes, I know.”
“You draw from life all time, right? Why don’t you just treat me like you would any model? Forget that I’m Tereus Shelawn’s son. Pretend I’m a dockworker you picked up.”
Lawrence gives his a hard look. “You’ll have to be nude, then. You should be anyway — anatomy is important.”
Inglorion shrugs, starts to unbutton his shirt.
“No, no — go behind the screen to undress. For Christ’s sake, man.”
“Is that how it’s done?”
“With a dockworker, yes.”
Inglorion strips his clothes off and hangs them on the hooks provided. He had pantaloons on, so he’s wearing underwear. He steps out, drops into the wing chair.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” says Lawrence. “Take it all off.”
“I’d heard it’s usual to wear underwear while modeling.”
“You heard wrong,” says Lawrence brutally. “The groin and buttocks are critical.” He gestures vaguely. “Anything could be happening under there.”
Inglorion pops behind the screen, and stands there for a moment, irresolute. He didn’t think he’d actually end up lolling around nude in an artist’s studio. He tries to remember when he was last naked in front of anyone besides a woman he was fixing to fuck. The room is chilly, too.
“You OK back there?”
“Oh, yes. Never better.”
He emerges, entirely nude. Lawrence looks amused. “That’s more like it. We’ll start with gesture drawings. Short poses, whatever you like. Sitting, standing, lying down. Five minutes each.”
“Anything at all?”
“Yes, literally anything. This is about anatomy and features, not your immortal soul.” He starts sketching briskly, frowning up at Inglorion and down at the paper. “Good. OK, now change. Change. No, not like that. Try to sit more naturally.”
“This will take practice,” says Inglorion demurely.
At the end of an hour, Inglorion’s intrigued and disappointed to see that Lawrence spent much of the time drawing his hands and feet. “Your hands are very expressive,” says Lawrence. “There’s a vulnerability there.”
“I’ve bitten my nails down to the quick. I wish you would draw my shoulders and biceps instead. I’m a bit vain about them.”
“Beauty and perfection are two different things,” Lawrence says. “A good likeness is bound to be insulting. Let’s finish with a longer pose. I want you on the carpet, sitting up Sphinx-style. Yes, like that, on your forearms.” He considers, then rolls Inglorion another cigarette. “Hold this in your right hand, as if you’re about to take a puff. Propped up on your left forearm, hand palm down. Yes, exactly.” He sketches furiously for a half-hour, replacing the cigarette when necessary. Finally he sets down the pad and charcoal, squints at it, nods.
Inglorion leans over to examine it. “Good God,” he says involuntarily. It’s very like — eerily so, right down to his ragged cuticles and the filigree of scars around his wrists: The power of his shoulders, his radiant smile and unfocused gaze, the cowlick at his hairline that forces him to part on the right.
“You’re the only one who doesn’t see your scars. ” says Lawrence offhandedly. “I’m here to see everything.”
The Reynolds portrait of Tereus is described here.