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Do you remember this sentence in a letter from Elizabeth Oustinoff on March 26, 2001? I've found in the memoirs of an old Roman antiquarian, a nice little story referring - I believe- to the early beginnings of the 20th Century. It would be interesting to learn what painting (a Venetian Channel) and which wealthy American women are dealt with.
Sorry, the tale is
in Italian !
(Editor's Note -- I have made an attempt at a very rough English translation -- I've paraphrased it, given speaker attributes, and changed it to first person for better understanding. It is highly probable I've made errors -- but it gives your the core meaning)
At page 149, the text reveals that Edoardo Gioia was as very gifted painter who had spent time in the Chelsea area in London for many years around where Sargent lived prior to this account of his story beginning:
* * *
One day, I (Augusto Jandolo -- the writer of the book and an art restorer) found Edoardo Gioia in my studio (back in Italy) admiring a rather large but fragile watercolor with vaporosi tones, representing a Venetian Channel; He kept looking at it and studying it closely before finally asking me how I came by this un-restorable painting as it had two badly stained water spots in the sky.I responded by asking if he knew the painting.
"This?" he said.
"It is a Sargent."
"You have bought it?"
"No, it was given to me by a customer hoping I could restore it because of the two water spots that are formed on the sky."
"You mean these spots that will never come out," he asked?
That was exactly what Strini (another restorer of old printings and ancient texts) had told me.
But then he continued after a moment. "Would you like me to try?"
"You?" I said
"You think that's strange?"
"No. I know you -- and I know you are very clever. I'll tell you though that the owner is disposed to compensate very well provided the restoration succeeds."
He took the painting. "Meet me on the port tomorrow I will have something to tell you."
"Be careful," I said. "They have paid a fabulous price for that painting"
He laughed and then thought a little and then asked, "How much?
"The sum I do not know I said, but I know it's a lot.""Don't worry," he said. "In any case I declare to you that if I succeed in making the spots disappear I will not want any compensation."
"This I got to see "
"See you tomorrow," he said
Punctually the next day, Edoardo came cheerfully carrying a portfolio under the arm, and extracted the Sargent. It was a NEW Sargent in all equal to the original.
"But it is in identical!"
"It's not difficult to explain." He then extracted from the folder the other deteriorated Sargent which I had given him the day before. "It was easy to copy since this other work is mine..."
"That work is yours," I said.
"Yes, I made it in London some ten years ago just to pass the time and as a joke with friends. I never thought that one of these, would be sold for an original to an American and for a large price. Since it's not possible to remove the spot, I simply retrieved the same card/paper and I re-painted it again. I hope your customer is satisfied."
And the customer in fact was most satisfied: she did not even look at at it closely.
Five mila Liras were sent to me spontaneously that Gioia did not want to accept. So the money was spent, in part, on a banquet for the Cisterna