In the museum of Florence is a famous painting. In the painting, a young man is standing at the edge of a mountain. Behind him are bandits. He looks as though he is about to fall to his death. Behind the bandits is a beautiful woman waving her hands as if pleading for the life of the young man.
As the story goes, Salvator Rosa was born to poor parents. He was artistically talented. He could play music, write poetry and paint. His parents hoped he would earn his living playing music but he enjoyed painting more.
He moved to Florence and painted for a living. He loved to paint the mountains in the area. Often, he would go wandering into the mountains for days. He looked for interesting scenes to paint. Rich families bought his paintings. Even the prince of Florence admired his paintings.
One day, he travelled further than he usually did in the mountains. Many people warned him about the dangerous bandits hiding there but Salvator did not listen. He wanted to find new scenes of the mountain to paint. He found a spot and sat down beside a river and started sketching.
Suddenly, a man appeared standing on a rock above him. His clothes showed that he was not from the city. He wore an old large hat. A leather belt around his waist carried his pistol and hunting knife. His black beard covered most of his face. Salvator thought, “I must not lose this opportunity to sketch a ‘man of the mountains’.”
Any other person would have been afraid and run away but not Salvator. He was more interested to sketch the strange looking man.
“What are you doing?” asked the man.
“Now, hold still! I have come to paint you!” replied Salvator.
“No, no. I am a painter and I come to the mountains to look for beautiful landscapes to paint.”
“To paint?! Don’t you know the mountain belongs to us? You have come to spy on us!” the man said.
He gave a loud whistle and three other men came out from their hiding places. “Tie him up! He has come to spy on us! We’ll take him back to our leader.”
The leader of the bandits was a big strong man. He was wanted by the Florence police but no one could catch him. He and his bandits robbed and stole as much as they could. And they kidnapped wanderers in the mountain for ransom. Those who failed to pay up were put to death.
They took him to their camp, deep in the mountains. When the bandit leader saw Salvator, he asked, “Who are you?”
“Salvator Rosa; a painter in Florence.”
“I have heard of you! You are famous and I hear the prince is your friend. Your paintings sell for thousands of ducats. You must pay us 10,000 ducats!”
“What! I don’t have that much money!” said Salvator.
“Then, your friends will pay,” said the bandit leader.
“My friends aren’t rich.”
“I am sure the prince will help to pay your ransom!”
“It is true the prince buys my paintings but he does not owe me anything. He pays for my paintings but he will not pay my ransom,” replied Salvator.
“He must!” said the bandit leader. “If he doesn’t pay up the 10,000 ducats within one month, you will die!”
Saying so, he left Salvator to think for himself.
During the conversation, two small children came out from one of the tents. They were curious to see Salvator.
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