How to commission a portrait


Most people that want me to paint a portrait say “How much” and I tell them, right now I charge $175.00 for a portrait of one person and $250.00 for a portrait of two people. But not everyone commissions a portrait that way. The last time I went to Sersale, I brought a very special gift for my recently deceased cousin’s wife, Santina. It was a portrait of my cousin, Giuseppe Mercuri that I had painted some years before. It showed his wonderful personality and everyone loved it. Even before we got it hung up on the wall a steady procession of cousins, friends and neighbors came through the house and admired that painting.

Annina, Santina’s best buddy and the wife of another cousin saw it and immediately had an idea. She had lost a daughter a few years ago and all she had of her for her little shrine was an enlargement of a blurry photo. So Annina began her negotiations for a portrait of Caterina. First she invited me over for dinner. No, not just any dinner, she’d already fed me many times. This time she made Sersale’s own specialty pasta by hand for me. She made a huge quantity of mparetate, they were gorgeous and delicious.

I ate as many as I could and felt guilty because I could not eat more. This was the first time anyone in Calabria made me homemade pasta.
But that was not all! She gave me wonderful olives, of course she gathered them herself and processed them too. She also gave me half of a Pittanchiusa, a dessert specialty of Sersale’s that is made for Easter. It’s a dough rolled rather thin and stuffed with fruit and nuts, a little bit like a cinnamon roll. Since I’ve never been to Sersale for Easter, I’d never eaten one before. This was a great gift! I was honored and delighted. It was a little stale, but hey, it still tasted good.. The last gift she gave me were some dried figs stuffed with walnuts. Oh, these are so delicious. A combination of two of the most delicious things in the world. The fact is, every one of the things Annina gave me in exchange for the portrait were priceless. How could I NOT paint that portrait?
After I finished the painting, I shipped it off and the worrying began. Would it get to Sersale? and how would I know if she liked it? Once again thanks to Facebook, two of her grandkids friended me. And thanks to them, I knew she had received her painting and was happy with it. A job well done.

You want to commission a portrait? Make me an offer I can’t refuse.

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5 responses to “How to commission a portrait”

  1. I love it! And it sounds like not just good negotiating, but a good way to fill in the background of that grainy photo. After all, how much of a portrait is really about the planes of a face – and how much is about the accumulated memories and stories associated with that face?

  2. Ah yes, stuffed figs……there is just one left. They’re a bit stale now, so quite chewy, but still, oh so good. You just need to go back and do some more paintings now – and bring home more. Nice portrait, by the way.

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