This story is reconstructed from a true occurrence that happened several years ago:
A young artist struggling to make a name for himself was ecstatic when an industrialist, the wealthiest man in town, commissioned a portrait of himself. The price agreed on for the painting (two thousand dollars) was more than the young artist had ever received. He was determined to make this the best portrait he’d ever painted.
Several weeks passed and the young artist appeared every day at the wealthy man’s mansion and labored diligently, refusing to affix his signature to the canvas until certain it was his best work to date. When finished, the portrait was a masterpiece, an amazing analysis revealing the sitter’s complex character. So skillfully was the subject rendered that the portrait appeared capable of thought and speech.
When the artist requested his fee he was shocked to receive only three hundred dollars, a fraction of the agreed upon amount. “This wasn’t our arrangement,” he said.
The industrialist puffed on his cigar and replied, “I’m only giving you three hundred dollars because the painting doesn’t look a thing like me.”
Realizing that the man was simply trying to steal the painting for a fraction of its worth, the artist insisted on the full amount.
The industrialist shook his head and blew a puff of smoke in the artist’s face. “When you’re starving, as most artists end up doing, you’ll beg me to take this portrait off of your hands. When that time comes, I’ll pick up this canvas for a song.”
Disappointed, the artist packed up his gear, grabbed the painting and walked home to
Two months later the millionaire was having lunch in a fancy downtown restaurant. He finished his meal and left, without leaving a tip for the waiter who’d seen to his every need. On the way to his nearby office he walked past a crowded art gallery. He entered to see what was so interesting and was startled when people pointed at him and laughed. A crowd standing before one of the paintings parted. There, hanging on the wall, was the portrait he’d commissioned of himself. Beside the painting was a placard with the picture’s title: Portrait of a Thief.
Crimson shot up the man’s cheeks. “This is an outrage!” he bellowed.
The artist happened to be standing nearby and stepped forward.
Seeing him, the industrialist barked, “You did this to humiliate me, turn me into a laughingstock. Take this painting down immediately!”
The artist calmly refused.
“I’ll sue you for defamation of character.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the artist said. “You told me that the portrait didn’t look a thing like you; surely no one will think it’s you.”
“All right, you win. I’ll pay your price,” said the deflated millionaire, fishing out his wallet and handing over a handful of bills. “Now take it down before anyone else sees it.”
The artist looked at the wad of money and said, “You should have held to our original agreement. The price is now ten thousand dollars.”
Ash fell from the millionaire’s cigar as he wrote out a check.