In Bucharest, I saw a girl I could have fallen in love with. Or I already am, taking into account the fact that I saw her only once and just for several minutes, but still – and quite often – I think of her. She has something from angels and mystery. From a forbidden Lolita’s charm and from the cynical devil who is good at selling his beauty. She is under-age but dressed in black, like a widow. Her lips are full and sensual – they are blazing on her white face. Her eyes express absolute obedience as well as their power over you.
The best illustration on the encyclopaedic article about “femme fatale”. But as everything perfect, she is beyond the reach. Perhaps, this is the reason why she’s sunk deep into my mind. She will never be mine.
Because she was born more than one hundred years before me.
Her portrait is hanging in the National Arts Museum in Bucharest. There is such a way of visiting big galleries and collections – you just walk through a museum and watch, not paying attention to what is written under a piece of art. Because usually, we are looking for the name of some famous artist – Rembrandt, for example. And then we just stand in front of the painting with a smart face and enjoy details of the work. But you can do it vice versa: you just walk through rooms until some painting attracts you.
This painting will be magnetic for you. This is how I found this girl, who is looking at me from a dark-green canvas. I don’t want to write about her in the past tense, though she died much time ago, and though I saw her portrait also in the past, just two weeks ago. No, her glance was so hypnotic that it is still looking at me. I remember it in detail – it means it is still with me.
What was charming about the painting? I suppose it was a combination of hidden sexual energy and the glance of the Blessed Virgin. The portrait resembled an icon in some way: how this girl is looking at the sky (because paintings of such level look at you, not vice versa!), how she was put in the centre of the composition, how whiteness is fighting with black colours of the background. And the face of the girl was so beautiful that I wanted to touch it.
I came closer and read the information which told me nothing, “Nicolae Grigorescu, “The Portrait of Maria Nacu”. My supposition, a subtle feeling of the holy vs. peccant game, was confirmed, “Nicolae Grigorescu started his career as an artist from iconography. He painted several cathedrals, created icons for rich and noble people as they ordered.
When he became famous, he moved to France and started to paint some secular pictures. But the skills remained, and some religious background can often be traced in his portraits of usual people. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find any information about Maria Nacu. I don’t even know when exactly she was born, and when she died. But her portrait prolonged her life as well as the life of the artist: it is considered a masterpiece; critics call it a “Romanian Giaconda”.
The portrait of this young girl had been painted in 1885, 112 years before I was born. When you see such beauty, only one question comes to your mind: how could we miss each other in time?!