Coffee & Ginger: The Mysterious Painting

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Good day Ginger Snaps and welcome to another edition of Coffee & Ginger, a series where I "informally" ramble about a Ginger related topic of my choosing. By informal, I mean I don't have much of a plan going into them, I kind of just write what comes to mind. As this is being typed, I am having a cup of Mickey's Really Swell Coffee, a blend that has become a new favorite. I get this medium roast at a store on my visits to the Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, but for the life of me I cannot remember what the shop is called. And I want to recommend it if you are a coffee drinker, but I looked and I don't think you can buy it online either, so I am of absolutely no help and should probably just turn down the volume on the coffee enthusiast within me and dive straight into today's topic.

I recently came across a photo on eBay that, to the average person, might look completely average. But one thing I love to do when discovering new to me photos is inspect them closely. When I happened upon this picture, that I have since purchased, I immediately assumed the year and the situation based off of what Ginger is wearing and what I had already known about the situation previously. In 1956, Ginger's home in Beverly Hills was burglarized while she and husband Jacques Bergerac were out to dinner. On the afternoon of the robbery, a woman posing as a phone company operator had called her to report trouble on the line, and asked if someone would be home at a certain time. You can guess that from there, the burglars (there were five of them total) easily figured out the best times to break in and proceeded to do so when they knew no one would be home. (They burglarized the home of Kirk Douglas as well, and at the ringleader's apartment, a list of celebrities was found, indicating future break-in plans).

Ginger's bedroom was ransacked, and the news reported that $30,000 worth of furs and jewelry were stolen. Luckily, only a few days passed before arrests were made. There you have the backstory, and now we will dive into the meat of this post.

In this photo (the one I bought from eBay), Ginger and Jacques are sorting through their personal items. The caption on the back states, "Film star Ginger Rogers shows her husband, Jacques Bergerac, one of the ransacked drawers in their looted home today. Their home was burglarized of jewelry, a camera and a mink coat totaling $30,000 in value."

But that is not what caught my attention. What drew me to this photo was the painting hanging on the wall.

 After close inspection, I immediately recalled a passage from Ginger's autobiography. In this passage, she tells the story of a visit to Paris in 1952, during which she had her portrait painted by one "Monsieur Beren." For the life of me I could not find anything on a French painter from that time period named Beren, so if anyone, especially anyone who speaks French, is able to find anything please let me know. My opinion is that either she intentionally used an alias for the painter so that he and the portrait could not be tracked, or that she unintentionally misspelled his name without realizing it, which would not be the first occurrence of a misspelling throughout this book. Either it is one of those two options, or there really is a painter named Beren and I actually suck at researching art history.

She describes the setting in which she posed as taking place on a green love seat that blended nicely with her royal blue gown.

The artist would not allow Ginger to view the finished product until the third and final sitting. She describes the incident on p. 355 of her book: "As I faced the canvas, my face paled and then turned bright red. To my absolute horror, he had painted the strap of my blue dress off the shoulder and exposed my left breast. I left the studio distraught and found someone to negotiate the purchase of the painting because I didn't want it displayed anywhere. I have the painting in storage; it's a grim reminder of artistic license. For the record, I never did and never would pose for anyone except in a discreetly clothed condition." She also goes on to explain that before she received it, the artist had already taken a photo of it and sold it to a French magazine.

I never set out to look for this painting, and obviously it cannot be confirmed that this is the portrait in question. However, I have a pretty good feeling that it is. It may be in black and white, but the description fits exactly with what Ginger talks about in her book. She is sitting on a love seat, and the left strap of her gown is down her shoulder. If this is the same painting, then it clearly did not make its way to a storage unit until later on, and was displayed in her home for at least four years after it was painted.

To get a non-biased opinion, I read the passage aloud to my sister, and then asked for her thoughts. She looked at the photo, looked at me, and then said, "I mean, it's hung up right here."

So what do you think? Is this the portrait in question, or a crazy coincidence? Either way, this was a fun little Nancy Drew-like experience and was in no way meant to expose the painting in a negative light. I am only sharing my findings on a pretty interesting topic.

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