An apprentice escorted Artemisia Gentileschi into the stifling studio. She was expected.
"Maestra Gentileschi, my dear, how pleasant to see you!" Gian Lorenzo Bernini stood in the middle of his studio. The young sculptor's handsomeness was barely diminished by a layer of rock dust. Apprentices and journeymen worked busily on busts and other statuary.
"It is good to see you, Cavaliere," Artemisia Gentileschi said.
"Enough of this 'cavaliere' nonsense, Artemisia. We've known each other too long for such formalities."
"And we've known each other too long for me to believe you didn't know I was in Rome, Gian Lorenzo."
Bernini laughed. "You always did have the measure of me. You are correct of course; I knew of your arrival almost instantly. Come, let's sit on the balcony and talk. It will be more pleasant there."
Bernini motioned to the apprentice who'd shown Artemisia into the studio. "You! Bring wine for Maestra Gentileschi and myself." The young man scrambled to obey.
The two artists spent some time catching up. Gian Lorenzo Bernini was far more adept at making enemies than friends, but Artemisia Gentileschi was a friend. Though Bernini painted a little, it was working the stone that he loved, and Artemisia supposed that the main reason they got along was because the sculptor didn't view her as a rival for commissions. They were also both second-generation artists, a relative rarity. When small talk and nostalgia had run its course, Bernini decided to get to the heart of the matter.
"What is it that brings you to me, Artemisia? Surely not merely to pass an afternoon in conversation, pleasant though that may be."
Artemisia sipped her wine before answering. "I have come to seek your assistance in a matter, Gian Lorenzo."
"Is it money? I keep telling you that miser Philip doesn't pay you what you're worth."
"Money isn't everything," said Artemisia. This was an old argument between them. "There is no small amount of prestige to be had painting for His Most Christian Majesty. And he's not nearly so jealous a patron as His Holiness."
"Jealous Pope Urban may be, but he is generous. Extremely generous. If it is not money, then, what is it you need? And what makes you think I can help you and King Philip cannot?"
"You have heard of this new town in the Germanies? Grantville, I believe it is called."
"It is called Grantville," Bernini confirmed. "And it has been the subject of much talk in the papal court. Mostly rumors, and wild ones at that. Its inhabitants are proving most puzzling. They are allied with the Swede, yet by all accounts, there is a Catholic church in Grantville that flourishes alongside Protestant churches and even a synagogue. Its leaders have made no attempt to suppress the Church and even seem to tolerate the open presence of the Jesuits."
"The father-general must be pleased," Artemisia said. "However, it confirms what I have heard, that Grantville is a place of freedom and possibilities."
"You seek to go there?"
"No. I want to send Prudentia there. Facts about Grantville are hard to come by, but it seems that women are not barred from advancement merely because they are women. It will be good for her development as a painter and as a person."
"This, from the only female member of the Florentine Academy of Design?" Bernini's feigned shock was intentionally theatrical.
Artemisia was not in a joking mood, not about this. "You know as well as I what I've had to go through. And you also know that Rome is a snake pit for an artist."
"True enough," said Bernini in a more serious tone. The sculptor didn't even try to deny Artemisia's statement. How could he deny it when he was the snake pit's most poisonous viper?
"I believe I can do as you ask. In fact, there is a most suitable traveling companion for young Prudentia with plans to depart for Grantville very soon."
"Thank you, Gian Lorenzo. I am in your debt."
"Yes, you are. And don't think I will let you forget it."
James Byron "Jabe" McDougal was having a hard time concentrating on this week's selection for the Grantville "Dinner and a Movie" club. It wasn't because of the selection. Doctor Strangelove was one of his favorites. No, it was Prudentia Gentileschi that was the distraction. From Jabe's point of view, practically everything about the fifteen-year-old shrieked: "out of your league!" She was beautiful—Jabe thought she was, anyway—she was smart, she was funny . . .
She was even famous. At least, her mother was famous, if you knew anything about art. Artemisia Gentileschi painted for cardinals, dukes, even kings.
Tonight's meeting was at Stephanie Turski's house. The group had grown out of an informal advisory committee brought together by Janice Ambler when Janice found herself programming director of the one and only working television station in the seventeenth century. The group still served an advisory function, but had evolved. As Janice firmed up programming hours and policies of the station—it had been christened WVOA-TV and the name had stuck—Dinner and a Movie became more of a group to watch and discuss films that didn't have broad enough appeal to merit a showing on WVOA.
Membership was fluid but there was a steady core of regulars in addition to Janice and Stephanie: Amber Higham, Eric Hudson, Ev Beasley, and Lorelei Rawls were all film buffs, and Father Mazzare and Reverend Jones came when they had the time. Balthazar Abrabanel, fascinated by the medium, also came when his health permitted and his medical duties didn't interfere; and Prudentia Gentileschi. Prudentia had been schooled in painting since she was old enough to hold a brush, and if her mother knew how well Prudentia could hold forth on the use of light and shadow in composing film shots, Artemisia would have been proud indeed. Her perspectives on this uniquely up-time art form were always surprising.
The discussion of Dr. Strangelove was winding down when the phone rang. Stephanie answered and handed the phone to Jabe. It was the duty officer at the barracks. Jabe was ordered to return as quickly as his feet could get him there.
"Sorry, everybody," Jabe said. "I need to go."
"I need to go as well," said Prudentia, in her heavily accented English. "Signor Nobili does not like me to be out late."
"I'll take you there," said Jabe. "You shouldn't walk alone."
Prudentia's responding smile had an undertone that embarrassed Jabe a little. Mostly because he was quite sure she wasn't fooled at all. In point of fact, Grantville's streets were quite safe, even at night—and Prudentia knew it just as well as he did.
However . . . She didn't seem to mind.
Prudentia's arrival in Grantville had been overshadowed, first by Mazarini's visit and then by the Croat raid and its aftermath. Artemisia Gentileschi wasn't a household name in a town like Grantville, certainly, but Father Mazzare had known who she was. So had Balthazar Abrabanel. He had recalled some rumors that Prudentia's grandfather Orazio had relocated to England from his native Rome, but if that was true Balthazar had never crossed paths with the man.
Before long, Prudentia Gentileschi was a minor celebrity—much to her embarrassment. Living arrangements were soon made, with Tino Nobili agreeing to provide lodging. Though Artemisia had wanted her daughter to be educated in Grantville, it was soon determined she already had an education which surpassed almost all Grantville's down-time citizens, and more than a few up-timers as well. In the end, Prudentia became a part-time student, mostly taking courses she chose for herself, and assisted the art and art history teachers in Grantville. In return for the latter, she was given a modest stipend to supplement the money her mother had sent with her.
Jabe and Prudentia spent most of the walk to the Nobili home in awkward silence, or even more awkward small talk. Jabe knew he was caught in the painful limbo between friendship and romance. The worst of that limbo, of course, being the fact that he had no idea if Prudentia felt the same way—and had no better idea how he might try to find out.
Even with an up-time girl, Jabe would have been too shy to try for a goodnight kiss, unless the girl was practically waving flags at him. With a down-timer like Prudentia, he didn't have a clue how he'd recognize a waving flag even if he saw one.
At the Nobilis' door, they bid each other good night. Jabe spent the walk to the barracks alternately cursing himself for blowing his chance with Prudentia—if there'd been one at all—and wondering what was going on.