Father’s Poppy Painting
A painting hanging in my father’s study figured large in my childhood. I remember its exotic golden yellow and crimson poppies on a background of burnt sienna and ochre. I remember days spent studying and copying it. I remember my mother constantly practicing Mendelssohn’s violin concerto in D minor. I remember father always gone on business. I remember the scent of Arfaj flowers wafting through the windows. Father’s poppy painting was the reason I decided to study art history at university.
One day when taking a class on famous stolen paintings, I discovered father’s poppy painting in my book.
This flash fiction is in response to Charli Mill’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge.
May 20, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an old mystery in the current time. Is it a discovery? Is it solved? Does it no longer matter, or does it impact innocent generations in between?
Charli’s prompt this week made me think of art heists. When valuable art is stolen, it is rarely recovered, so there are many theories as to who or why people do it. Stealing famous art can sometimes be complicated, but it can be accomplished thanks to security underfunding at many institutions. Resale is usually impossible, because these paintings are well-known and buyers want to know their provenance, which is their history of ownership. The greatest mysteries are why do these heists occur and what happens to the art once it is stolen?
For this story, I selected van Gogh’s painting Poppy Flowers, which has been stolen twice from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo, Egypt. It was first stolen in 1977 and recovered a decade later. It was stolen again in 2010 and has yet to be found. The estimated value of Poppy Flowers is $50 million.
My flash fiction is an imagining of what it would be like growing up in a house with a stolen painting hidden in plain sight. What other secrets can such a family be hiding?
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