Categories > Comics > X-Men0 Reviews
Barone Branducci contemplates the ever varying portrayals of his twin sister Betta. Part of "Più che muta", a Marvel Elseworlds series set in an alternate Renaissance Italy.
Even now, Lisabetta was directing the servants in rearranging the many paintings, drawings, and sculptures around the house, as was her habit when the mood took her. The newer, more fashionable works were scattered in the front of the house, in the areas where a guest or petitioner might see the latest representation of her, displaying their family's wealth and her patronage of the arts.
Older creations were banished to less public areas, to private rooms and the halls, or even to the passageways leading to the servants' quarters, if they fell out of favour.
He had inquired about that once, asking if the fine portrait which Betta had sat for just last year was not good enough to keep. The colours were rich, the artist skilled, the whole very well done.
His sister had shaken her head and lectured him as though he were a schoolboy.
"Just look at it," she said, as if the answer should be obvious. "The style has changed. It is now the mode to wear the skirt fuller, the sleeves more ornamented, and to have a woman friend accompany oneself in the picture. That dress looks so old that people will be thinking it is a painting of my mother, not myself! Still," she admitted, tilting her head to one side, "it is a quite a good piece. I shall retire it to my own rooms," Betta decided and she had gone off to have a new one painted together with Corradina Rossi.
She spotted him now, and beckoned him over.
"Ah, Barone. Have you finished reading your treatise?" Without waiting for a reply she continued, "This one here," regarding a picture of herself seated at her writing desk, quill in hand. "Do you think it would do well placed near the sitting room, or is it perhaps best suited to the library where it will impress our more intellectual visitors?"
Betta tapped a slender finger thoughtfully against the folds of her violet gown.
Barone considered the painting which the servants held up for him to view. After a moment, he said seriously, "For a picture with such subject matter, a more cerebral domain does seem fitting."
Betta smiled. "So solemn, my brother. You must be more merry at the masque next week. Margherita will be there, and Corradina also. A man should enjoy the spectacle of two fair ladies vying so strongly for his favour," she teased.
In Barone's recollection, on the last occasion, the two fair ladies had not so much vied for his favour as glared daggers at one another over his shoulders. He had thought of offering, only half in jest, to allow them the use the garden as their duelling arena, though only a man more foolhardy than he would actually suggest such a thing.
Betta rather enjoyed the frequent entertainments. When she attended one, she must be seen to wear the best and latest fashion. For weeks beforehand, she would be consulting this seamstress, that jeweller. Sometimes there would be a tailor for her brother, as he often escorted her to feasts and functions and must not reflect poorly upon his sister by wearing outmoded raiment.
And when she gave one, the household would suddenly be overturned. Everything must be cleaned and aired. The furnishings must be rearranged, perhaps reupholstered with new fabrics, decorated with new draperies.
The house would be filled with craftsmen and craftswomen, measuring and fitting, plying their wares and performing their trades. At such times, Barone would retreat to his study and occupy himself with the latest writings on mathematics and natural philosophy.
Betta loved best the costumed entertainments. She adored dressing in the clothing of another world, another age, be it real or imagined. She would often have portraits made up, depicting her in the persona of the character she adopted. These tended to spend the most time in the public hallways, as the fashions were not so quick to date.
Barone gazed along the length of the wall, seeing only his sister. Here and there were scattered fanciful pictures of Betta as a Roman, Betta as a scholar, Betta as a princess, Betta as an Englishwoman, Betta as the Madonna with an angel by her side. So many versions of her appeared that it was if she had become her own twin, rather than his. Further down, there was even one of Betta as a boy from the faraway Orient.
At the entrance of their home, hung the two current favourites. Betta as a butterfly faced directly across from Betta as an Amazon. To Barone, it was an appropriate contrast. His sister was both fierce and flighty.
He turned his attention back to Lisabetta, who was now pondering a small sketch drawn in pen and ink. Insofar as he could judge, it was rather well done, with subtle, delicate linework and good use of shadow under her cloak.
"Is that a new piece?" he inquired. Barone did not think he had seen it before, but Betta had so many differing portrayals that it was hard to keep track of them all.
"Why yes, it is," she replied, pleased her brother had noticed. He was so unworldly sometimes, preferring the solitude of his books or the discipline of the fencing court to the titled company they must keep. "Margherita is having her portrait taken again, with a new artist, freshly arrived from the north. While I was visiting, he drew for me this /cartone/. It is a speaking likeness, is it not?"
Barone nodded in agreement.
"I think that when he is finished with Margherita I shall commission the man to paint my own portrait," his sister continued blithely. "Perhaps I should invite him to my entertainment. And you must be sure to keep Giacomo in his rooms, well away from anyone important," she charged him sternly.
Ever since the riding accident, their elder brother Giacomo was not quite right in the head. He had developed the alarming habit of venturing about the grounds dressed in no more than his underbreeches, frequently appearing out of nowhere to startle visitors.
Barone sighed. He would do his best to keep their brother contained, but Giacomo always managed to slip his leash.
"I will not have him alarming our guests, especially not when I wish to be seen in all my glory by this Piero Niccoli," his sister reminded him.
With a final nod, Betta motioned the servants to set the sketch against the near wall and smiled.
"One wonders what marvels he will be inspired to create."