Cantus Artificiosus

An old artist was sitting alone in his studio, bent over his drawing paper. He rubbed his temples and wondered with a sigh how he had once managed to conjure forth on canvas a fetching lock of hair, the difficult curve of a chin, a lively face in just the right proportions…

And once again he began his journey anew. Humble and curious, he guided his pen across the page, first testing and seeking, then with growing purpose and ease. Just as if he were obeying orders from outside.

The more the figure took shape on the page, the more willful his work of art became.

“No, the shadow of my lower lip is velvety soft yet translucent. If I were suddenly to shift my gaze, the shadow would have to come alive. You won’t glue it on my lips, will you… My dear, see the curve of my jaw. That, too, lives and curves, sometimes broad, sometimes thin and delicate before ending at a beautifully-shaped ear. You have noticed my eyes… they really are a little sad, because right now I have worries. But please make it a little darker,” the face emerging on the page might whisper.

“Yes, yes. I’m trying to do my best. But be patient; I can’t keep up with you,” mumbled the old artist, immersing himself in the movements of his pen.

“My hair… the light and shadows trace a smooth arch, because I like things to look natural. Oh! I’m actually like a charmer, aren’t I!”

“You are indeed,” the artist replied and doggedly continued working. Dusk fell, and with a start he became aware of an oppressive silence. “Where are you? I need your advice,” he muttered. No one replied; the candle just hissed for a moment in its molten wax. “I think I’ll take a little rest and look at the drawing again in a better light first thing in the morning,” he decided, wiping the drawing with a soft cloth, at precisely the darkest shading of the hair. “Silk…,” he wearily thought just before closing his eyes and falling asleep.

A moment later a faint voice was heard in the darkness:

“Thank you.”

The artist, who now slumbered peacefully after his labours in order to regain his strength did not yet know that his picture was finished.


English translation by Susan Sinisalo


Tales & Stories


Tales & Stories