Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Is it a Leonardo? An extract from The Search for Gabriella.


Mr. Slama leads us into the restaurant which is empty except for one table at the back, at which sits a large man with a low forehead.  On the table are four glasses and a bottle of vodka.  He heaves himself up and greets us.  Mr. Slama says,
“Mr. Kakonin.   Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Denn from London.”
 Mr. Kakonin grunts and sits down.  His heavy features and small eyes are obviously not used to smiling a lot.  
“Wodka,” he says, pushing two glasses towards us, which he fills to the brim.  Slama helps himself.  I raise my glass to them.
  “Good Luck.” 
“Hah!” shouts Kakonin and we drink.
"You interested my pictures, yes?" We both nod.
"What for?"
"What for?" I ask.
"What you do with them?"
"That depends on many things," I say.
"What things?"
"First we must clean them to see what they might be. If they are of no importance artistically, then too bad.  If they look like they might be old then we must restore them. A long and expensive business.  A big risk.  If they restore well, then we must establish who painted them. That would decide their value.  Then we sell them."
"What kind of profit, you make?"
"That depends entirely on the current market value of the painting.  Is the artist fashionable?  Are there potential clients who are interested in that particular artist?  And so on."
"My paintings worth 100,000 euros.  Very good paintings.  All old.  One is signed with letter  'L'."  I tap Dobri's heel.
"Is Leonardo da Vinci, probably," says Kakonin.
"Every one of Leonardo's paintings is accounted for,' says Dobri. 'Only his drawings are not fully catalogued. Is it a drawing?"
He turns and bellows, "Karenina!"  A young woman enters the restaurant behind him. She is wearing white thigh-length boots, a black and very short plastic mini-skirt and matching tank top. Her blonde hair is cropped and she has a face tattoo of three small gold stars and she carries three old gilt-framed paintings. Kakonin looks at them and shouts at her again. She turns round and struts out but returns immediately with a fourth painting, which he grabs from her.
He lays it on the table before us.  "Is Leonardo!"  Dobri and I lean forward.

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