Strange Painting

In my parents’ apartment there is room which, for reasons I've never really understood, is called the gallery. In that room, there is a thing hanging on the wall above the horizontal file. Evidently it’s a painting, although it looks very different from any other painting I’ve ever seen. First, it’s divided up like a comic book into two dozen square sections, each displaying a different scene. Second, it is enormous. It’s nearly four feet wide; if we laid it out flat it would be bigger than the dining room table. Each “panel” is captioned by a line of text in an unfamiliar language. Neither my parents nor I know what they say. It turns out, the writing on the painting is Ethiopian. My great grandfather Harold “Geep” Courlander was stationed in Ethiopia during World War II, working as a journalist for the United States Intelligence Agency. Geep loved the folk tales and legends of other cultures; the painting depicts the legend of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. He brought it with him when he returned to the United States at the end of the war. When he divorced his wife years later she kept the painting, and passed it down to my grandmother, Erika "Ricky" Courlander. When Geep died he bequeathed his art collection to Ricky who, now owning too many paintings, gifted it to my father. It still belongs to him today, hanging above the horizontal file. It may be passed on to me someday. Hopefully I’ll be able to find room for it.

Year: 1940

– Adam Wolfson

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