Aphrodite’s Poppies

Prompt Day #112: Begin a piece by describing a custom built piece of furniture or art…progressively reveal its fantastic abilities or deadly implications.

 

Aphrodite’s Poppies

 

“The next item we have up for bid is a lovely painting by an unknown artist. This exquisite never before seen piece depicts the goddess Aphrodite standing within a field of bright red poppies under a deep blue summer sky. You’ll note the poppies’ petals are painstakingly detailed and their deep red color is only heightened by the proximity to its opposite color green on the stems. The flowers have held their color extraordinarily over the years. Also notable is the blue of the sky which is an unusual shade for its time period. This particularly realistic hue has not been recorded in any other work done during the same era. I think the most striking detail of all is the muted colors of the goddess who stands with her hand outstretched offering a blossom to the viewer. This picture is about the flowers, not the goddess which also stands out in this particular time period. We believe this painting was completed during the Renaissance–somewhere around 1500 in Florence, Italy. While the artist is an unknown, there is quite a story that comes with the piece which if it is to be believed, would explain the reasons it has remained undiscovered for all this time….

There was once a young gypsy girl who lived with her grandmother in the slums of Florence. Her grandmother was rumored to be a witch and while ostracized, everyone including the upper class merchants sought her services out when a specific need arose while her granddaughter, Mirella assisted her. Mirella was a talented artist, frequently painting lovely pieces of art that she sold at the shop as well. As a female, Mirella was never given the same respect as her male contemporaries and no matter how talented she was, she too was ostracized.

Mirella and her grandmother ran a small flower shop as a cover for the spells and enchantments they sold in the back of the shop. Had anyone formally accused them of creating these potions, they would have been burnt at the stake.

Every day, the handsome son of the village’s Lord, accompanied his mother to the flower shop where Mirella worked. She was madly in love with the boy who never seemed to notice her or any of her paintings. When the boy grew old enough to marry, he began to come to the shop alone and buy roses from Mirella and her grandmother. Still he barely noticed the lovely young woman Mirella had become and certainly paid no mind to her artistry which too had blossomed into works that would rival those of da Vinci and Raphael.

When the boy’s marriage to a local merchant’ daughter was announced to the village, Mirella locked herself in the back of the shop refusing to assist in the wedding flower preparations. Instead, she painted. Night and Day again and again until the day of the wedding. On that day, after everyone in the town had closed up shops in order to go to the anxiously awaited nuptials, Mirella finally came out of the back. Dressed as a young man, she marched through the empty streets, toting a large, wrapped painting on her back. She arrived at the end of the celebrating; just in time to present her gift to the happy couple. Introducing herself as a student of the great Michelangelo, she presented her gift to the couple. Explaining that it was meant to bring the couple success in love and fertility, she bowed and returned home.

The painting was treasured by the couple and placed on the wall at the foot of the bed so that they could see it each morning upon rising. Anyone who viewed the painting agreed that it had no equal and was indeed magical. Sure enough, within two full moons, it was announced the young wife was with child.

When the time came for the babe to be born, the Pope’s own physicians were called in to attend the birth. The mother-to-be labored through the night and into the next day. By the evening of the second day, word was spread that the poor girl had begun to hemorrhage and while the physicians had done all they could, both she and the unborn child had died.

Everyone in the village was shocked and saddened at the news. Mirella, however, was not. Mirella had expected something like this would happen as she had put a small spell on the painting. The red poppies were painted with her own menstrual blood so that when the Lord’s son looked upon it, he would find himself drawn to Mirella and not his wife. The goddess of love and the flowers of fertility would ensure that he would only find happiness and fecundity with Mirella. She did not know how his marriage would end, only that it would. She was sorry that an innocent babe suffered so that she might fulfill her dream.

When the young widower came to the flower shop for the funeral flowers, he truly saw Mirella for the first time. He fell immediately and irrevocably in love with her. Soon, to everyone surprise and his family’s disapproval, they were married. He offered to remove the painting from their bedchamber but Mirella refused, saying she loved its beauty and detail and did not want for him to forget his first love. She knew, however, that he already had, of course.

The first night the two consummated their marriage, Mirella became pregnant. One month later, the pregnancy ended in a torrent of blood and pain. This same torment repeated itself three more times before Mirella found the courage to go to her grandmother, confess the secret of the painting and ask for help. Her grandmother, nearly blind, asked to be taken to the painting. When she ran her hand over the piece, feeling the strokes of the brush, heavy with her woman’s blood that created each petal of the flower symbolizing fertility.

The old woman shook her head in pity for her granddaughter who had created a masterpiece of art but with an enchanted brush, she painted herself into a corner. For while the painting put a spell on her husband, ensuring his love for her and her alone for the rest of their lives, she cursed herself by painting a fertility symbol with blood from an empty womb.

…and so, for many years, after the death of the childless couple, the painting was considered cursed. The gypsy grandmother outlived her granddaughter and her husband. She ordered the painting covered and locked away declaring that anyone who laid eyes upon it would be rendered childless for all their days and a woman residing in the home where the painting might be hung would be risking her life as well. We have been fortunate in obtaining this found painting and after preliminary testing can indeed confirm the red pigment contains human blood which we believe only adds to the mystery and uniqueness of a piece already prized for its originality, color, technique and the gender of the artist.

Now, shall we start the bidding at 1.5 million?”

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