As the co-curator of Eye to Eye: European Portraits 1450-1850 and the judge of the “First Lines” contest, I want to thank everyone who entered the first sentence of their story about Victoria and her mysterious gentleman.
I had a great time reading your imaginative entries during my lunch break today. We had 22 entries, and although they were all wonderful, our winner today is “snowgirl” for her witty opening:
Victoria swept into the bar looking for her blind date … “He said he would be carrying a frond with two berries,” she thought to herself as she scanned the room … ” Is it that tall Swede in the corner? No! Is it that fantastic looking man in the blue cape? No! Where could he be? Oh no … please tell me it’s not the fool over there wearing white long AFTER Labor Day …. arrgh … that’s him … that’s the last time I let Francesca set me up,” she said as she turned and ran out the door.
Congratulations to snowgirl! And just a quick curatorial word about this portrait:
Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Palm was painted by the Italian artist Francesco Maria Rondani in the early sixteenth century. Inscribed “this, sweet Victoria, is the living likeness of your lover…which I pray you to keep so that nothing can harm it,” it seems likely that the portrait may have been a wedding or betrothal portrait. So had Victoria truly run out the door upon seeing this gentleman, the portrait would likely never have been painted!
On the other hand, what I like about snowgirl’s opening line is the suggestion that Victoria’s love story nearly stopped before it started. I like to think that the protagonist, seeing the ravishing Victoria run out of the bar, pursued her and overcame her reservations with his charm—lending layers of meaning to the eventual portrait he had painted for her. I am convinced that there IS a fantastic story behind this portrait—one that we can never know, but that is fun to imagine!
I hope you’ll all come see Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Palm—and the other stunning works in the Eye to Eye exhibition—for yourselves.
—Kathleen Morris, the Sylvia and Leonard Marx Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of Decorative Arts