Realpolitik and Paint

Amidst the backstage politicking of a mediaeval state Machiavelli sat for an official portrait.  He was poised, serious.  “How do I appear?” he asked the painter, who craned around the easel.

“Austere, astute,” the painter remarked.

“Very good,” whispered Machiavelli, barely moving his lips.

“Although… sometimes I long to stop painting surfaces,” the painter moaned.  “Imagine the art I could create if I captured the inner workings of a man for all to see – his beliefs, his conscience!”

“Pah!” Machiavelli almost cracked a smile.  “Then your canvases wouldn’t sell.  A conscience looks like vomit.  So, paint lies and get paid.”


This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday. Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is below, copyright Madison Woods.


29 thoughts on “Realpolitik and Paint

  1. “Paint lies and get paid” — yes, I can imagine Machiavelli saying this. (His modern counterparts, too.) “A conscience looks like vomit” — a brilliant line, really. It’s such a harsh piece – but you added the humor of seeing him try to speak without moving his lips – and that makes it so readable and enjoyable. 🙂

    • Hmm I hadn’t thought of that as humorous, but I suppose it is, really – if you give the characters a bit of nuance they end up doing part of the work for you 🙂

      I’m thinking you may struggle to give Owen and Abbie some closure with this particular prompt… 😉

      • Sorry I missed this comment earlier!

        Yes, I could hear him slurring and mumbling as he tried to speak and keep his mouth still — and it was a wonderful *human* moment. Had to chuckle. 🙂

        And you’re right — no closure with this particular photo. But it *did* pave the way for *acceptance*. As soon as I saw the photo it led to a discussion of his deteriorating spell-casting skills (“Identity Issues”). Usually I wait till the last minute to complete these – but this week was a bit easier, strangely.

      • Yes, I can see how, if a spell turned out looking like that, it would signal a deterioration in a sorceress’ powers!

        Oh I can take days to reply to comments – I sometimes have a big catch-up 🙂 although I think I still miss a few 😦

  2. ‘A conscience looks like vomit’ – what a thought. Thank heaven for paint that lies. I’ll look at portraiture differently from now on.

    • Thanks! True, for instance all fiction writing is essentially “painting lies.” And yet sometimes it’s possible for the painted lies to contain some inner truth somehow 🙂

  3. Hi Blake… Nice one 😀
    I really enjoyed the read … Your introduction and Machiavelli’ s words “Paint lies and get paid.” is raw but so clever… Realpolitik!.
    I smiled and nodded in agreement as I read those lines.
    Thanks a lot for sharing and all the best to you,
    Aquileana 😛

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