Friday, April 14, 2017

Her Rightful Place

Fifteen years or so ago, my sister, in need of some furniture, went to an auction. She was enamored by a painting that reminded her of our mother--so enamored was she, that no one at the auction bid against my sister; they seemed to understand the painting was destined to be hers.

 At the center of the painting is a young woman dressed in 19th century, Sunday-black. She is walking, but she has turned around as if to convey a mysterious message, or to teasingly say she will return shortly, or perhaps, never. Yet, her look is so inviting, perhaps she beckons for the recipient to follow her to church, to a lavish party, or to board a train or ship to an exotic destination. My mother loves her ancestors, and to my sister, this woman is my mother's relative; she belongs in mother's family tree if only through her painted presence.

The young woman is surrounded by yellow leaves and a thick gold frame. It's intriguing in the same way the Mona Lisa is intriguing. No one can quite guess what she is smiling about or if in fact, she is smiling or smirking.

To further the painting's mystery, there is no artist's signature. My sister thinks it is covered by the thick frame but no one yet, has dared to take the painting apart to find out.

The painting is as unique as Klimt's Woman in Gold, the subject of a Helen Mirren film and three documentaries. It is the story of a wealthy Jewish family and the commissioned painting of Adele Bloch Bauer confiscated by Nazis during WWII. A niece remembers the painting well and she fights to have it returned to the family. Her legal battle triumphs over the atrocities and thievery of the past; the painting is returned to her.

A funny glitch occurs in this painting's history too. Though not quite as dramatic as Nazi thieves, my sister brings the painting to my mother, who loves it, but my father doesn't. So much that my mother isn't up for the fight. My sister's boyfriend has just renovated his home and there is the perfect wall to hang the painting--for now.

Fast forward those fifteen or so short years. Dad is gone, Mom has moved, and her entryway has a painting that leaves my sister feeling~~meh. Until she realizes, the painting chosen just for Mom, years ago, might be perfect for this spot. The painting is crated and shipped, and finally arrives where it should have been all along~at the heart of mother's home.

I am captivated by her presence on Mom's entry wall. She greets me when I enter, she intrigues me from across the room, from my seat on the couch. It's uncanny how well she fits and how long it took to find her rightful place in Mom's home.