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by [?]

On a visit to the villa of the Medici at Fiesole she first saw Sandro Botticelli at an evening assembly in the gardens. She had heard of the man and knew his genius. When they suddenly met face to face under the boughs, she noted how her beauty startled him. His gaze ranged the exquisite lines of her tall form, then sought the burnished gold of her hair. Their eyes met.

First of all this man was an artist: the art-instinct in him was supreme: after that he was a lover.

Simonetta saw he had looked upon her merely as a “subject.” She was both pleased and angry. She, too, loved art, but she loved love more. She was a woman. They separated, and Simonetta inwardly compared the sallow, slavish scion of a proud name, to whom she was betrothed, with this God’s Nobleman whom she had just met. Giuliano’s words were full of soft flattery; this man uttered an oath of surprise under his breath, on first seeing her, and treated her almost with rudeness.

She fought the battle out there, alone, leaning against a tree, listening to the monotonous voice of a poet who was reading from Plato. She felt the disinterested greatness of Sandro, she knew the grandeur of his intellect–she was filled with a desire to be of service to him. Certainly she did not love him–a social abyss separated them–but could not her beauty and power in some way be allied with his, so that the world should be made better?

“Shame is of the brute dullard who thinks shame,” came the resonant voice of the reader. The words rang in her ears. Sandro was greater than the mere flesh–she would be, too. She would pose for him, and thus give her beautiful body to the world–beauty is eternal! Her action would bless and benefit the centuries yet to come. She was the most beautiful of women–he the greatest of artists. It was an opportunity sent from the gods! Instantly she half-ran, seeking the painter. She found him standing apart, alone. She spoke eagerly and hotly, fearing her courage would falter before she could make known her wish: “Ecco, Messer Sandro,” she whispered, casting a furtive look about–“who is there in Florence like me?”

“There is no one,” calmly answered Sandro.

“I will be your Lady Venus,” she went on breathlessly, stepping closer–“You shall paint me rising from the sea!”

Very early the next morning, before the household was astir, Sandro entered the apartments of the lady Simonetta. She was awaiting him, leaning with feigned carelessness against the balustrade, arrayed from head to toe in a rose-colored mantle. One bare foot peeped forth from under the folds of the robe.

Neither spoke a word.

Sandro arranged his easel, spread his crayons on the table, and looked about the room making calculations as to light.

He motioned her to a certain spot. She took the position, and as he picked up a crayon and examined it carelessly she raised her arms and the robe fell at her feet.

Sandro faced her, and saw the tall, delicate form, palpitating before him. The rays of the morning sun swept in between the lattices and kissed her shoulder, face and hair.

For an instant the artist was in abeyance. Then from under his breath he exclaimed: “Holy Virgin! what a line! Stay as you are, I implore you–swerve not a hair’s breadth, and soon you shall be mine forever!”

The pencil broke under his impetuous stroke. He seized another and worked at headlong speed. The woman watched him with eyes dilated. She was agitated, and the pink of her fair skin came and went. Her face grew pale, and she swayed like a reed.

All the time she watched the artist, fearfully. She was at his mercy!

Ah God! he was only an artist with the biggest mouth in all Florence! She noted how he tossed the hair from his eyes every moment. She saw the heavy jaw, the great, broad-spreading feet, the powerful chest. His smothered exclamations as he worked filled her with scorn. What had she done? Who was she, anyway, that she should thus bare her beauty before such a creature? He had not even spoken to her! Was she only a thing? She grew deadly pale and reeled as she stood there. Two big tears chased each other down her cheeks. The painter looking up saw other tears glistening on her lashes. He noted her distress.