Sunday, June 22, 2014

Coup de Foudre or Smoldering Flame

There are various translations for the French expression “coup de foudre” such as bolt of lightning or a sudden event from out of nowhere but all agree on “love at first sight”. 
This can happen with a pet, an individual and even a work of art.  You just know this is a person or object of your dreams.

But there is also another kind of love that can come through being with someone through thick and thin which usually occurs through proximity and working together.    Someone you saw in the office together and one day realized the person is more interesting than you first thought.

This can happen on a movie set where everyone is thrown together with a single project that they work on intensely together. Something like that happened between me and my wife.  We spent a couple of years working on an exhibition, ”The Grand Gallery” at the Metropolitan Museum from 1972 to 1975 and something clicked and we were married in 1975.  For me this happened a second time with another woman but this one was made out of bronze.

My father often asked the question, “Why do kids get along so well with their grandparents?”  The answer, “because they have a common enemy!”  This is true of art too.  Often we like what our grandparents liked not out parents.  Then as we get older as in all things we begin to appreciate what our parents appreciated and understand better why.

In the specific case that I am thinking of it was a bronze sculpture that I found boring when my parents acquired it in my youth.   When my parents died, however, and I inherited it from their estate I had decisions to make.   It did not really go with my inventory being German 20th century so where could I put her?  I decided that I would live with her kneeling on the staircase on the way to our bedroom of the townhouse in New York City that served as gallery and home.  Every night I would pass her glittering body on the stairs and I found myself patting her head on the way up. 

Not to keep you in suspense any longer the bronze is by Georg Kolbe (1877 Waldheim/Sachsen - 1947 Berlin) and is called “Kniende” (Kneeling Woman).  She kneels 21 ¼ inches tall and the model dates from 1926.   We are lucky in that the piece is signed with the artist’s initials and bears the Foundry Mark which dates it after 1936, The artist died in 1947 and the foundry went on for some years after that, so people want to know if it was cast while the artist was still alive.  So far, we have found no way to figure that out but the quality is first rate and not many models of the piece are known.  There is one in the Princeton University Art Museum and another in the Kolbe Museum in Berlin and probably a few others.

Though collectors might care if the artist was still alive when the lady was cast, when you are in love such things don’t matter.   So what to do when we gave up the gallery and moved permanently to the Southwest?  I no longer wanted to sell her.  I did not want to put her in the warehouse with other works of art from my inventory and she certainly would not go with our Native American collection in Santa Fe - no staircase here either.   Then I found someone else as passionate as I was.  It was a surprise and a bit embarrassing, having my older son and I after the same woman!  I figured that at my age I was the one who would have to step back so she has moved to Michigan and the object of my affection is now living with my son Danny and his family.

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