The Model

Centuries ago a great artist was engaged to paint a mural for the cathedral in a Sicilian town.  The subject was the life of Christ.  For many years the artist labored diligently and finally the painting was finished except for the two most important figures:  the Christ Child and Judas Iscariot.  He searched far and wide for models for those two figures.

One day while walking in an old part of the city he came upon some children playing in the street.  Among them was a 12-year-old boy with the face of an angel – a very dirty one, but the face the artist needed.

He took the child home with him and day after day the boy sat patiently until the face of the Christ Child was finished.

But the painter still found no one to serve as model for the portrait of Judas.  For years, haunted by the fear that his masterpiece would remain unfinished, he continued his search.

Then one afternoon as he sat in the tavern over his daily glass of wine, a pale and tattered figure staggered through the door and fell upon the floor.  “Wine, wine,” he begged.  The painter lifted him up and looked into a face that frightened him.  It seemed to bear the marks of every sin of mankind.

Greatly excited, the old painter helped the wretched man to his feet.  Here at last was the model for Judas.  For many days and nights the painter worked feverishly to complete his masterpiece.

As the work went on a change came over the model.  His bloodshot eyes were fixed with horror on the painted likeness of himself.  One day, the painter paused in his work.  “My son, I’d like to help you,” he said.  What troubles you so much?”

The model sobbed and buried his face in his hands.  After a long moment he lifted his eyes to the old painter’s face.

“Do you not remember me?  Years ago I was your model for the Christ Child.”