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The story is about a man creating 11 perfect sculptures of the king and creating the last one with a monkey face. They are interlocking and the monkey face one cannot be removed. The king is looking for perfect things only. The man is looking for revenge. If I remember the king is named Da Vinci.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Where and when did you read this?
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 15:06
  • Hi, Thanks for the reply, Loong time ago, more than 10 years. It's a short story collection. Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 15:08
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    Can you clarify the science fiction aspect? This feels like it could be a kind of historical fiction. Were there any fantastic elements? Different planets or species?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 15:24

1 Answer 1

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The Sculptor by Garry Kilworth. I read it in his anthology Moby Jack and Other Tall Tales.

The sculptor is Niccolò and the king is indeed called da Vinci (strictly speaking da Vinci is the High Priest but he behaves like a monarch), however you have misremembered the number of statues. There are 333 arranged in a ring, and Niccolò carves the very last one with the monkey's face.

Niccolò had left the carving of the facial features until last, and this he had completed within the last five hours of close work. He held the statuette up to the light coming through the dusty window, inspecting it. The piece, as always, was pristine, immaculate. It would fit, patterns matching exactly, into its place in the holy ring of angels. It was the sibling of the other 332 figurines—with one exception.

Instead of da Vinci’s youthful countenance, it had the face of a monkey. Worse still, a monkey whose features resembled those of the High Priest. A cruel caricature.

Niccolò want revenge because da Vinci killed his mother:

"I'm certain of it. He loved my mother very much—my friend the sage Cicaro was there at the time—but he had her executed after my birth, because... because her beauty was marred."

"In what way?"

"Stretch marks," said Niccolò. "In giving birth to me, she was left with stretch marks on her abdomen. He destroyed her because she was imperfect, blemished by a natural act of which he himself was the author."

And the nature of his revenge is:

No, I gave him a gift—an imperfect gift. Perfection is an obsession with him. Now he is caught in a cycle of madness. He will not destroy the gift, for the angels have his face and it would be like destroying himself. Yet one of the figures mocks him—resembles him in a crude way, but actually has the face of a monkey. Without this figure the ring of angels is incomplete, an obscenity—three hundred and thirty-two statuettes. The pattern on the marble is broken, the circle unfinished, yet with it, the art is marred, twisted into a joke of which he is the brunt."

"He will go mad, it will destroy him."

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  • Omg! That's the one. Thank you Soso much. Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 7:30
  • How do I mark this as accepted answer Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 7:30
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    @GayanIlleperuma Welcome to SciFi.SE! Please take the tour to familiarize yourself with the site, its functions, rules and customs. If you have specific questions, see the help center additionally. For example, accepting an answer is described here and here. Have fun!
    – zovits
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 7:47
  • @GayanIlleperuma Click on the "tick" symbol to the left of my answer. Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 7:48
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    @BenHocking see edit Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 15:15

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