`To be sure! We met at Rossi's; do you remember, at that soiree when that Italian lady recited - the new Rachel?' Golenishchev answered easily, removing his eyes without the slightest regret from the picture and turning to the artist.

Noticing, however, that Mikhailov was expecting a criticism of the picture, he said:

`Your picture has got on a great deal since I saw it last time; and what strikes me particularly now, as it did then, is the figure of Pilate. One so knows the man: a good-natured, capital fellow, but an official through and through, who knows not what he doth. But I fancy...'

All of Mikhailov's mobile face beamed at once; his eyes sparkled. He tried to say something, but he could not speak for excitement, and pretended to be coughing. Low as was his opinion of Golenishchev's capacity for understanding art, trifling as was the true remark upon the fidelity of the expression of Pilate as an official, and offensive as might have seemed the utterance of so unimportant an observation while nothing was said of more serious points, Mikhailov was in an ecstasy of delight at this observation. He had himself thought about Pilate's figure just what Golenishchev had said. The fact that this reflection was but one of millions of reflections, which, as Mikhailov knew for certain, would be true, did not diminish for him the significance of Golenishchev's remark. His heart warmed to Golenishchev for this remark, and from a state of depression he suddenly passed to ecstasy. At once the whole of his picture lived before him in all the indescribable complexity of everything living. Mikhailov again tried to say that that was how he understood Pilate, but his lips quivered intractably, and he could not pronounce the words. Vronsky and Anna too said something in that subdued voice which (partly to avoid hurting the artist's feelings and partly to avoid giving loud utterance to something silly - so easily done when talking of art) people use at exhibitions of pictures. Mikhailov fancied that the picture had made an impression on them too. He went up to them.

`How marvelous Christ's expression is!' said Anna. Of all she saw she liked that expression most of all, and she felt that it was the center of the picture, and so praise of it would be pleasant to the artist. `One can see that He is pitying Pilate.'

This again was one of the million true reflections that could be found in his picture and in the figure of Christ. She said that He was pitying Pilate. In Christ's expression there ought to be indeed an expression of pity, since there is an expression of love, of unearthly peace, of preparedness for death, and a sense of the vanity of words. Of course, there is the expression of an official in Pilate, and of pity in Christ, considering that one is the incarnation of the fleshly, and the other of the spiritual, life. All this and much more flashed into Mikhailov's thoughts. And his face beamed with delight again.

`Yes, and how that figure is done - what atmosphere! One can walk round it,' said Golenishchev, unmistakably betraying by this remark that he did not approve of the meaning and idea of the figure.

`Yes, there's a wonderful mastery!' said Vronsky. `How those figures in the background stand out! There you have technique,' he said, addressing Golenishchev, alluding to a conversation between them about Vronsky's despair of attaining this technique.

`Yes, yes, marvelous!' Golenishchev and Anna assented.

In spite of the excited condition in which he was, the sentence about technique had sent a pang to Mikhailov's heart, and looking angrily at Vronsky he suddenly scowled. He had often heard this word `technique,' and was utterly unable to understand what was meant by it. He knew that by this term was meant a mechanical dexterity for painting or drawing, entirely apart from its subject. He had noticed often that even in actual praise technique was opposed to essential quality, as though one could paint well something that was bad. He knew that a great deal of attention and care was necessary in taking off the veils, to avoid injuring the creation itself, and to take off all the veils; but there was no art of painting - no technique of any sort - about it. If to a little child or to his cook were revealed what he saw, either would have been able to peel the veils off what was seen. And the most experienced and adroit painter could not by

  By PanEris using Melati.

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