Holmes of Kyoto Vol 2 Chapter 2: In the Style of Las Meninas (Part 3)

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Chapter 2 Part 2 | Contents | Chapter 3 Part 1

It was Saturday on the same week.

Holmes-san and I were heading to the Okazaki District, where Takamiya-san’s house was at.

With Heian Shrine, known for its gigantic vermillion shrine gate, as well as Okazaki Park and Okazaki Zoo, this area gave the impression of having a lot of wide spaces.

I stared outside the window from the passenger seat.

“With clear blue skies like these, the vermillion color of Heian Shrine really shines, don’t you think?”

Holmes-san commented brightly as he drove.

“You’re right. It seems like a good time to take a walk here.”

“Yes. Naturally, Heian Shrine has a circuit-style garden, and you can also enjoy reading books at the library there. With Nanzen-ji1 a few minutes walk away, you can spend a whole day in Okazaki District.”

“That’s certainly true. There’s really so much to see in Kyoto!”

“Yes, perhaps we should slowly look around next time.”

My heart pounded after hearing Holmes-san’s smooth reply.

“Yes, let’s! I’d be happy if you could show me around, Holmes-san.”

If I got to places like the art museum, library and zoo with Holmes-san, wouldn’t it be like a date? Then again, since we’ve already been to the Handicrafts Market in Hyakumanben and Mt. Kurama, perhaps it wouldn’t be special at all to Holmes-san.

Mortified that I was the only one to be feeling such nervous excitement, I looked out of the window, thinking that it was a futile aspiration, yet being unable to comprehend why. As I was in that state, the car pulled into a residential street.

Quite unlike the rest of Kyoto, large houses were lined up with large spaces between them. It certainly gave off the atmosphere of a premium residential area.

As we entered a small road, a tall fence immediately came into view.

“That’s Mr. Takamiya’s residence,” Holmes-san said while looking at the fence.

“Ehh?”

Surprised by his words, my eyes widened.

The high fence, which made it clear that its purpose was to keep intruders out, enclosed a section of land.

On the other side of the large door with iron railings was a wide yard with a lawn spread over it.

I could see a Western-style building in the middle of the yard. It had a brick outer wall in a subdued color.

Up till now, I had always seen gleaming Western-style buildings, but Mr. Takamiya’s residence was different from those ones that gave off a new, modern atmosphere, and instead made me feel its history and significance.

With its dignified ambience, it gave off the impression of an old castle.

A huge parking space lay in front of the door, and a one-box car was parked in it. In the driver’s seat was Yoneyama-san’s figure.

After confirming that we were approaching, he waved with a limp smile on his face.

Holmes-san nodded politely upon seeing Yoneyama-san, then reversed the car to park it.

“You’re in time. Thank you.”

Yoneyama-san got off his car, opened the trunk and retrieved a big painting wrapped in packing paper.

That would be the painting that he’d produced.

The one that was “in the style of Diego Velázquez”, as requested.

***

“—Welcome. This way, please.”

Following the servant’s directions, we went into the yard and entered Mr. Takayama’s residence.

While I was blown away by the size of the entranceway and the height of the colonnade, we headed towards the study.

A maroon carpet was spread out on the floor, and a chandelier hung from the ceiling. An enormous portrait dominated a wall. It depicted a young man with dauntless features and a beautiful woman. Probably Mr. Takamiya and his wife when they were young.

It was a wonderful painting that was most likely created by a famous artist.

“Here we are.”

We stopped in front of the study as the servant slowly opened the door.”

The first thing that caught my eye was “The Guitar Player” that Yoneyama-san had painted.

I was a little shocked to see that Mr. Takamiya had put it up even after knowing that it was a forgery.

In front of that picture was a splendid desk, where Mr. Takamiya was sitting.

He struck me as someone in the same generation as Owner.

That would put him in his late seventies.

However, he wasn’t dazzling with youthful ardor like Owner, but was instead gentle and composed, and gave off an atmosphere of elegance.

“Thank you for coming.”

With a hand resting on a walking stick, he stood up. His intonation was flawless.

The two of us bowed respectfully.

“Well, if it isn’t Kiyotaka-kun. Haven’t seen you in a while. I heard from Seiji-san that you would be the witness today.”

Takamiya-san’s eyes narrowed as he saw Holmes-san.

“Good to see you after such a long time. You haven’t changed much since then.”

“No, I’ve definitely grown old. How I wish I can be always healthy, like Seiji-san.”

He then turned to look at me.

“—And this is?”

“I, I am Mashiro Aoi,” I awkwardly introduced myself.

“Aoi-san is part of the staff at Kura,” Holmes-san continued for me.

“I see. It must be quite interesting to work around the people in the Yagashira family. Do your best!”

From those words, I could surmise that he also knew about the unique points of the Yagashira family, making me feel a sense of affinity with him. Happily, I said, “Yes!” and lowered my head again.

Takamiya-san walked over to Yoneyama-san.

“It seems that you’ve already finished the painting. Are you a person who works fast?”

He asked with a smile on his face. The smile was gentle, but had a lot of force behind it.

“Y-Yes, I work fast, I think.”

Yoneyama-san nodded nervously, then looked at the easel that had already been set up in the study.

“Umm… do I put it here?”

“Yes, please do.”

“A-Alright.”

Yoneyama-san installed the wrapped painting on the easel.

I could sense the tension in his movements, making me feel nervous for him too.

“—H-Here you go,” Yoneyama-san stammered, then stepped away.

The painting on the easy was covered with a white cloth.

Takamiya-san, who had been holding such a composed expression up till now, gulped.

Holmes-san, who was standing by the wall, was also staring at it with a sharp gaze.

Tension enveloped the study.

Takamiya-san silently extended a hand and swiftly lifted the white cloth off.

“—Ohh!”

He unexpectedly let out a sound.

On the painting was a cute young girl who looked like a doll.

She seemed to be seven or eight years old, with black glossy hair, deep black eyes and rose-colored cheeks.

She was wearing a pink dress and a prim smile.

Behind Takamiya-san, who had stood up without saying anything, Holmes-san quietly smiled.

“An oil painting similar to that of Diego Velázquez, I see. It brilliantly expresses the art style of the maestro himself, I think. By the way, who is this young girl?”

Takamiya-san looked down in response to Holmes-san’s question.

“That’s my granddaughter, Satoko.”

Upon hearing those words, Holmes-san closed his mouth and put on a meek expression.

Yoneyama-san hesitantly raised his head.

“…I heard from Yagashira-sensei that your granddaughter, Satoko-san, was the apple of your eye. With the help of your secretary, I managed to obtain photos of Satoko-san.”

He gave an apologetic look, probably sorry for having taken the liberty to get the photographs.

I noticed that he used the past tense, which left me with a bitter feeling. As we’d been told, Takamiya-san had lost his family in an accident, and the picture depicted his deceased granddaughter.

“…I see. Diego Velázquez also painted many pictures of King Philip IV’s beloved daughter, Margarita. She was given to Austria for a political marriage, but it’s a fact that the king doted on her. Did you take a hint from that?”

Yoneyama-san wordlessly nodded to Holmes-san’s question.

In front of that painting, Takamiya-san’s eyes were moistened, and his hands were quavering.

“I’m moved. It’s more wonderful than I thought it would be. If Satoko looks down on this from Heaven, she would surely be happy.”

“Thank you.”

Yoneyama-san placed a hand on his chest in relief, but Takamiya-san narrowed his eyes.

“I gained immense riches through the success of my business, and at one time, I felt that I had everything in the world. I would even arrogantly say, ‘There is nothing that can’t be bought by money.’ But then I received divine punishment.

“Since I was too busy with my work, my wife and my son’s family went for a holiday. But then they got into a traffic accident, and that’s how I lost my family. My wife who has followed me for so long, my proud son, and my precious granddaughter…” The words escaped from his lips as he stared at the painting.

The despot who boasted about getting everything in the world lost everything that couldn’t be bought with money.

Feeling the despair and pain in Takamiya-san’s statement, I was unable to look directly at him, so I looked down instead.

“…Yes, that’s what I heard. I also heard that your granddaughter was five at the time…”

Yoneyama-san continued, causing me to go, “Hm?” and check the picture again.

That child is five years old?

…She didn’t look it at all. She was too big to be a five-year-old.

At that moment, Holmes-san nodded and muttered, “I see.”

“You painted a picture of a slightly grown-up version of Satoko-san, right?”

“…Yes. I imagined a grown-up Satoko-san based on her photographs, then painted her at an age when she would be entering elementary school.”

Yoneyama-san nodded. Unable to hold it back any longer, Takamiya-san burst into a flood of tears.

“Thank you so much. I never dreamt that I would be able to meet the seven-year-old Satoko.”

Takamiya-san clasped Yoneyama-san’s hands.

“…No, I can only hope that I met your expectations.”

He’d probably managed to create a work that resonated with Takamiya-san’s feelings.

I was also deeply touched by that scene, and tears started welling up in my eyes.

“It absolutely surpasses my expectations.” Takamiya-san vigorously shook Yoneyama-san’s hand, but a hesitant expression appeared on the artist’s face.

I wonder why he looks so despondent? I thought. At that moment, Holmes-san answered my doubts.

“—The painting certainly went beyond expectations, but it’s quite different from the work that Takamiya-san wanted from the beginning, right?”

Holmes-san asked with a strong tone, causing all of us to stop moving.

The painting went beyond expectations, but it’s different from the work that Takamiya-san wanted?

I frowned, unable to understand why Holmes-san would say such a thing.

But Yoneyama-san nodded with a solemn look on his face, apparently holding the same thoughts.

“I agree with what Kiyotaka-kun said. I had a lot of confidence when I was producing this work, but after Yagashira-sensei looked at my finished painting, he went quiet for a while, then appointed Kiyotaka-kun.

“I believe the sensei felt that something was off, but he couldn’t express that feeling in words. This picture might have satisfied you, but it isn’t necessarily linked to your initial request, right?”

As if the frail impression he gave off was just an illusion, Yoneyama-san spoke firmly, causing me to be a little flustered. I never knew that the lax artist could hold such a strong gaze.

Takamiya-san looked down, as if to escape from that gaze.

“…It’s exactly as you say. When I set the condition that the painting had to be “in the style of Diego Velázquez”, it was because I hoped to see a certain kind of painting. I looked forward to see what kind of picture the genius who had once deceived my eyes would draw in response to my condition.

“I wondered if you would read my intentions and produce a wonderful painting, or do the bare minimum and create a piece that simply imitates Diego Velázquez’s techniques.”

…I see.

Takamiya-san was testing Yoneyama-san to see how far he would answer his expectations.

“In the end, you didn’t quite grasp my desire, but you certainly went beyond my expectations.

“It isn’t an exaggeration to say that you’ve vastly outperformed your client. So, it’s fine. I’m satisfied with your painting.”

Takamiya-san earnestly said as he stared at the painting.

“But I can’t agree that I’ve done a good job if I didn’t draw what you originally wanted,” Yoneyama-san replied in an annoyed tone.

He really was like a different person.

Yoneyama-san used to suppress his sense of self when creating forgeries. He’d turned over a new leaf and was now working in an art gallery, but this was probably his first time in this kind of situation.

In this situation where someone not only knew about him and acknowledged his talents, but also entrusted him to produce a piece of art, something must have started growing within Yoneyama-san.

And that something was a creator’s strong pride that made him want to fully fulfil his client’s wishes…

I wonder what Holmes-san’s thinking?

I glanced at him, but he was standing by the wall and looking out the window, with a small grin on his face.

…What is he looking at?

Lured by his gaze, I also turned to look out of the window, to see two young children playing in the garden.

There were also a young couple who were joyfully watching over the children, who seemed unsteady on their feet.

“—Who is that family?”

I quietly asked. Takamiya-san gazed at the scene with a peaceful countenance.

“That’s my one remaining treasure. I’ve lost my precious family, but I have one grandson left, and that is his family. My grandson, his wife, and their two children, one at three years old and the other at two years of age. That would make them my great-grandchildren.

“They don’t care about who I am, and just adore me. Indeed, they are irreplaceable.”

Takamiya-san’s cheeks relaxed as he contentedly looked on at the family playing in the garden.

Holmes-san made a small nod, apparently having surmised everything.

“I understand now, Takamiya-san.”

Takamiya-san went, “Hm?” as he shifted his gaze to Holmes-san.

“You wanted Yoneyama-san to paint a picture in the style of Las Meninas, right?”

Takamiya-san’s eyes widened as he heard Holmes-san’s confident words.

“Las Meninas?”

Yoneyama-san and I asked together, but with different inflections.

My question was rhetorical, but Yoneyama-san’s voice echoed with doubt.

“…As always, you’re amazing, Kiyotaka-kun.”

Takamiya-san said after a short pause, his eyes narrowed as if he were looking at something dazzling.

Las Meninas.

That was one of the famous works of Diego Velázquez that Holmes-san had mentioned the other day, and he’d shown us a photo of the painting.

Las Meninas is Spanish for “Ladies-in-waiting”. It’s focused on Princess Margarita, with many ladies-in-waiting around her, I think.

“With a complex structure, it is critically appraised as a work of art.” That was written in the artbook that Holmes-san had shown us.

Did Takamiya-san want a painting with such a complex structure?

Answering my question, Holmes-san retrieved the art book from his bag which was on the floor.

“I brought it here, just in case.”

He then flipped to the page with the image of Las Meninas.

As I’d remembered, it had Princess Margarita in the middle.

On the left side was a lady-in-waiting holding the princess’ hand, and on the right side were three young girls. Out of the three girls, the youngest one was stepping on a dog that was lying on the ground. It might seem cruel at first glance, but the dog didn’t seem to be feeling pain, so it was probably just a child’s harmless prank.

The part of the painting that left a lasting impression was the figure who stood in front of a canvas, painting a picture.

“—Who is this person?”

“That’s Diego Velázquez himself.”

“The artist himself!” So Las Meninas was a self-portrait as well!

Diego Velázquez must be quite a narcissist to include himself in his own work. But perhaps all artists were like that?

In any case, there must be a hint somewhere in that painting. As I was devouring the picture with my eyes, searching for the answer, Yoneyama-san stood up next to me.

“—Yoneyama-san, concentrate on the royal couple in the painting.”

Holmes-san quietly said, causing Yoneyama-san to strain his eyes to look at the picture and respond with, “The royal couple?”, a difficult expression on his face.

After staying silent for a while, he suddenly raised his head, as though he’d had a revelation.

“…Um, did you understand something?”

“Y-Yeah. Aoi-chan, look here.”

He pointed at the picture frame on the wall in the painting.

“You’re referring to the picture in the painting, right?”

It was a picture of a woman clad in a dress on the left, and a man on the right who seemed to be a person of authority.

That was probably the portrait of the royal couple.

“That’s what I thought too, but that’s wrong. It’s not a portrait, but a mirror. It is a custom to paint the king on the left, but it’s the other way around, right?”

“Mirror?”

…If that’s so, even though they were not in the picture, they were in the room. In front of Princess Margarita and the working Velázquez.

—In other words, Velázquez was painting a picture of the royal couple on the canvas.

I see, so that’s how it is.

To summarize, Velázquez painted Las Meninas through the king’s perspective.

Today, you can easily do that with a camera, but that didn’t exist during that era.

And at that time, young Margarita would soon be wedded off to Austria.

Those everyday scenes filled with joy and tranquillity must have been treasured by the king as a precious, limited treasure.

Velázquez cut out those treasured bits of time and painted them for the king.

To leave behind the image of the princess, her ladies-in-waiting and himself, paying a visit to the royal couple.

At the moment when I understood the meaning behind the painting, Yoneyama-san clenched his fists and said, “—I, I understand. I now understand the secret behind the arrangement of Las Meninas.”

He then continued in a low voice.

“This is— the joyous scenery that the king always sees, right?”

Holmes-san silently nodded to those words.

It was now obvious to me as well.

Basically, Takamiya-san wanted Yoneyama-san to paint the joyous scenery of his grandson’s family playing together from his viewpoint, a scene that he could enjoy only now.

It was exactly like Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas.

While that scene seemed to be insignificant and could be seen everywhere, I knew just how irreplaceable it was to Takamiya-san.

Before I noticed it, tears had already naturally welled up in my eyes, so I hurriedly wiped the corners of my eyes.

“Here you go.”

Holmes-san immediately offered me his handkerchief.

“…T-Thank you.”

Feeling embarrassed, I used the handkerchief to press down on the corners of my eyes.

Having heard our little exchange, Takamiya-san chuckled.

“Thank you for weeping for me.

“It is exactly as you say. However, the condition that I gave, “in the style of Diego Velázquez”, contained a little mischief on my part. Basically, I wanted to see how far Yoneyama-san could solve this riddle, but I wasn’t really taking it seriously since I didn’t expect him to understand it. But then he painted up a wonderful picture in the style of Velázquez, so I’m satisfied.”

Takamiya-san gazed at Yoneyama-san’s painting of Satoko-san again, his eyes narrowed lovingly.

Yoneyama-san walked in front of the elderly investor and lowered his head.

“—Takamiya-san, could you give me one more chance?”

Upon hearing those words, Takamiya-san looked into the artist’s eyes without saying a word.

“Please let me paint one more picture. This time, I think I’ll be able to produce a work in the style of Las Meninas,” He asserted in a strong tone.

“—Yoneyama-san.”

Takamiya-san’s face seemed to be filled with doubt for a moment, but it quickly turned into an ecstatic smile.

“Then, let me officially make a request of you. Could you paint for me this joyous scene that you can see here?”

“Yes, I’d be glad to,” with a hand on his chest, the artist bowed again.

“I’ll look forward to seeing your version of Las Meninas, then. But this time, don’t be too fixated on Velázquez’s art style, and draw this scenery in your own style.”

Takamiya-san said. In reply, Yoneyama-san bowed deeply with a serious look in his eyes.

“Yes, I will do my best.”

Indeed, he was just like the king’s Diego Velázquez.

An awe-inspiring scene lay before me.

Right here, right now, an amazing artist was born.


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  1. A Zen Buddhist temple established in 1291, Nanzen-ji is also the headquarters of a branch of Rinzai Zen.

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