A Lost Painting Finds Its Way. . . An experience I shall never forget.
I have posted in the past about my love for vintage portrait studies and have done various posts about my staircase gallery as I like to call it. Well last week I was looking for another painting to add to my collection. I wanted something in the same era 40's or 50's. I'm always looking for the same type of paintings. They are usually haunting and beautiful with a hint of sadness in their stare. Someone asked me as they were contemplating my collection if there was a theme that tied them together. I replied that I thought the theme was loneliness or at least that's what most of them feel like to me.
Now I do have a portrait of Mary and Jesus with St. Anthony that does not depict that theme at all.
Anyway, as I scrolled down the hundreds of paintings that fit my search criteria I stumbled across this beauty. I was immediately smitten. I loved the size, the colors, the brush strokes and how the light hit the subjects face. But what truly attracted me to it was the fact that her stare reminded me of my mom's eyes when she was younger.
The painting was for auction and the starting bid was 550.00. As much as I wanted the painting that was above my budget and I couldn't really justify spending all that money on a painting so I continued to look. I let it go for a day, still searching every now and then on different sites but the painting continued haunt me. I couldn't put it out of my mind.
As I searched I came across the woman once again. Now we all know how ebay works. Usually if you put in a bid that is below the starting bid it will be rejected and you will get some kind of automated response informing you that it is under the amount suggested. So don't ask me why I made an offer for 250.00.
I know. It was crazy! I don't know what made me place that offer and to be totally truthful, 250 was more than I could really spend to put down.
But I did it anyway.
Not even ten minutes after I placed the offer I heard my phone ding. I had a reply. To my surprise it was not the answer I expected. It said, "Congratulations, your offer has been accepted."
What? Seriously? I won it? I couldn't believe it. I had to confirm and pay and I was a bit nervous about doing so because 250.00 was still quite alot to pay, but at the same time it was way lower than the initial amount of 550 so 250 was a steal for such a beautiful piece of art.
So I bought it. I had won this beautiful painting and I couldn't stop admiring it on my phone and laptop. I even took a screen shot of it and had it on my phone. I broke the news to my husband stating adamently that I was getting a great piece of art for practically nothing. With much convincing, he finally agreed.
Now here's the reason for this post and an experience I shall remember for the rest of my life.
Yesterday morning, my husband and I went to our favorite breakfast place. As we had our eggs, I commented about the painting and how I couldn't wait to put it up on my gallery. He listened as he usually does, nodding every now and then and then I told him how I wish I knew who this woman was. I wish I knew her story was exactly what I told him.
Later that afternoon, as I was at the store admiring my painting on my phone, I was moved to put it on instagram. I had been waiting to share my great find when I finally recieved the painting but felt too excited and thought I should do a post. (You can see my actual post if you click on my instagram icon)
A few minutes later, and I mean minutes I received a phone call from my friend Meg. Her voice sounded nervous as she spoke. She had been at the beauty salon having her hair done and was scrolling through instagram when she happened to see my post. The post I had just put on instagram only moments before.
I met Meg several years ago through my son's mother in law. She has had a facinating life and has been involved in theater and the film industry for years. Her father was a famous film editor and needless to say she has had so many wonderful experiences and I am always eager to be in her company and hear her stories of the many famous encounters she has had throughout her lifetime.
Back to the portrait.
Meg explained that she had been stunned by my post and wanted to know how I had acquired the painting. I filled her in on the details thinking she was simply acknowledging an incredible ebay find.
Meg proceeded to tell me the reason for her call. She said Lisa I knew the woman in the painting.
The woman's name was Harryetta Peterka. Harryetta was a well known and wonderful drama teacher and director of instruction at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC. In her early years she was an actress herself and toured professionally as a member of the Academy Repertory Company. She performed Off Broadway and in regional theater. She appeared with Christopher Reeve in "The Complaisant Lover. (old English spelling)" Meg had worked with her in NYC and Harryetta had become a mentor and a dear friend.
Meg worked with Harryetta in New York City. Ms Peterka supervised students enrolled in a two year professional theater training program as she served as artistic director of the Academy Company. Tragically Harryetta was struck by a bicycle messenger while crossing Madison Avenue in front of the academy at the age of 64 in 1998.
Meg explained that she accompanied her battered body in the ambulance after the accident. She was declared brain dead practically on arrival and passed four days later at Bellevue Hospital.
She told me about another friend of Harryetta and hers named James Wilmot. I recognized the name. He was the painter of the portrait of Harryetta. Apparently he had painted this portrait many years prior and had sold it to a couple. After Harryetta's burial Meg had expressed her wishes about the painting and her desire to own it. Jim, as Meg called him, regretfully relayed to her that it was no longer in his possession.
He told her that Harryetta and her husband had never expressed an interest for it. Her husband had remarked about how he had not been happy with how Jim had captured his wife. That her expression seemed mean to him.
Jim consoled Meg with the words "it will find it's way to you in time." She recalled. Meg never forgot his words and was given a photo of the painting by Jim in the aftermath of Harryetta's death.
(actual photo of it below)
That photo remained in Meg's posession for years. She had it on her desk, in her office and placed a simple frame around it in memory of her mentor and friend Harryetta. In the years to come, Meg continued her correspondence with Jim and maintained her yearly christmas card exchange until an envelope from Mr. Wilmot's lawyer was sent to Meg with an obituary notice, a letter explaining when Jim had died and Meg's unopened Christmas card to Jim.
Meg explained that she never let go of the idea of finding the painting someday, nor did she forget the words Jim had told her. "It will find it's way to you in time."
This was the painting. This was the time. Jim's words had become reality and Meg had not only just found the painting but her friend had just purchased it.
When she finished I didn't know what to say. My mind flashed back to the morning when over breakfast I had said to my husband that I wish I knew more about the woman in the portrait.
Here I was learning not only who she was but how she had died, who had painted her and who had been searching for the painting all these years.
It was clear to me that there was something greater than a coincidence or happy happenstance occuring. This was fate in play. A portal had some how opened and a force had reached out to me in order to allow a prophecy to take place. Jim's prophecy had come true and I had been an instrument used to bring it in full circle back to Meg, the person the painting had been intended for.
Harryetta had somehow reached out to Meg through me.
Dumbfounded and in complete and utter awe of the occurance I told Meg that I could never keep this painting. This painting was meant for her. She cried as I told her and I cried too. It was surreal and incredible and I was humbled and fortunate to have played a small role in such an extraordinary experience.
I guess Harryetta was still directing somehow even from beyond.
As excited as I was to have found such a treasure I was filled with joy to know that Meg will finally have the painting she has been longing to have for so many years. I shall never question life's unexplainable occurrences and will always and forever believe that fate continues to be a phenomenon we might never truly comprehend.
Posted by Lee at 11:12 AM