Friday, February 24, 2012

Charley to Marlene : Cuba

The Ocean Blue
April 1866

Marlene –
Your letter arrived in Antwerp by courier on Tuesday morning.  It was very fortunate as I left that very morning with Nicaise and a Mr. Henry Cleenewerck on a boat to Cuba!  My daughter will be beside herself when the news makes its way home to Culcreuch.  We are on quite an adventure.  Henry is anxious to see the countryside and I believe Nicaise has spent much of the ocean voyage discussing the growing of sugar cane with a Sr. Andres Gomez-Mena who boarded in Spain.  He has large holdings in Havana.  It was determined over dinner last night that we will be his guests on his plantation in Havana.  It is quite a voyage for an old man, but there is no work involved, just a grand adventure.  I suspect while Nicaise courts the baron families for portrait work, Henry and I will jaunt the countryside in search of primitives.  I thought I had mentioned my profession to you earlier, but perhaps I was remiss.  In my early years I served as an assistant to the master Gustaf Wappers at the academy in Antwerp, primarily in the design of the scene (developing a great many skills to both the realms of art and needle).  I continue to work mostly as favors to my many colleagues – although I think it they who do me the favor!  We land tomorrow and I will transfer these scribblings to proper form.  I hope they find you well.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Marlene to Charley: Wales

March 1866
Charley-We have been summoned to Wales to consult with Alexandra, Princess of Wales-the wife of Edward VII. I am quite excited about meeting her as she is very beautiful and stylish and many women want to emulate her. I have heard she enjoys dancing-so may want several ball gowns. She is also an excellent horsewoman and as a child in Denmark, the author Hans Christian Anderson used to come to the palace and read her stories. I was unable to speak with Lawrence Alma Tadema about the painting, but did overhear Msr. B talking with a man (rather unsavory character) and from the tone of his voice, he did not seem pleased. While in the studio in Paris, I had a brief opportunity to try the key with your name on it in several cupboards, but to no avail. I will keep trying. If I may ask, what kind of work did you do for Msr. B? Please keep thinking about what the key can be.  Marlene

Friday, February 10, 2012

Charley to Marlene: Belgium

Dec. 1865

Marlene, I hope I do not take liberties to address you so familiarly.  If so I pray you forgive an old man for his quirks.  News of the remarkable discovery made it here to Belgium.  I was summoned from Hong Kong by my dear friend Nicaise de Keyser upon the recent death of the king.  His son (Leo. II) was crowned Sunday last and my services were required.  Although it meant my work in China was cut short, it was most satisfying to visit Nicaise.  He is a noted and most accomplished painter and it was he who first told me of the discovered Antoinette painting.  The Academy here in Antwerp have dispatched a panel of experts to Paris to examine the painting and to attempt to determine its source.  I mentioned briefly with him over dinner last eve, our correspondences and your association with Msr. B.  I tell you – I have known Nicaise for quite some time and have never seen such a look on his face as when I mentioned Msr. B.  I fear you misunderstood my earlier reference to my employ with him.  It was but for a short period when I was much younger with keener senses of observation than I fear I possess today.  In fact I fear my negotiations in China may have been to my disadvantage as I wearied from the work of it.  My daughter urges me to pass the work on to younger men, but it is hard to let it go.  But I digress.  The contingent from Antwerp will include a Lawrence Alma-Tadema.  You might seek him out and hear what he has to say about the painting.  You should mention my acquaintance.  Until anon.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Marlene to Charley: France


Paris 1865
We are back in Paris at Msr Beauchamp design studios for a brief time to replenish our fabrics and supplies. The talk of Paris right now is the “discovery” of a painting of Jeanette Antoinette, the eldest sister of Marie Antoinette. She appears to be a rather strange woman, but very stylishly dressed. Msr. Beauchamp is somehow linked to the discovery of the painting… I am very disturbed by your recent post, but I must remain with Msr as I am a widow with no means of support. I carry the key with in in a discreet place on my person, but have taken your advice and have hidden all of my notes and drawings in the studio. I am wondering if the key could unlock something here? Do you recall anything from your employ here? Most close-Msr approaches.  Marlene