In the latter days of the empire, after the great compromise but before the Emperor lost his only son and heir, it was common to compare the empire and its peoples to the greatness of the past and to find it wanting. The great painters, musicians, and other luminaries who had once established the imperial lands as a beacon of enlightenment and civilization seemed to depart for other lands as soon as they arose.

For a time, many named the painter Szolnoky László was cited as a counter example to this. Hailing from a noble but relatively humble lineage, he worked only with shades of brown in contrast to the vivid colors favored by other artists of the time. His works, impressionist but representational, showed a true mastery of his limited color palette, often appearing more vivid and energetic than their mere colors should suggest.

Szolnoky, a self-professed perfectionist, worked in seclusion in the mountains and took six months to a year to finish a commission. Nevertheless, nobles from all over the empire sought out his services, and eventually the Emperor himself contacted Szolnoky for a birthday gift to be given to his niece. The artist agreed, but either did not notice or disregarded the unusually tight timeline of three months for completion.

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