Light Brown Paint for Wood furniture
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Dark Brown Paint for wooden door
Many years ago while I was attending university, I took a class in the history of the Third Reich.
,It was quite informative, and the Professor had been able to secure several guest lecturers who made the class absolutely riveting.
We were lectured by a woman who had been in charge of a Lebensborn facility, a retired Army Colonel who had been one of the first Allies to walk into Hitleru2019s office in the Brown House, an SS officer who lost an arm in North Africa and had been awarded the Knightu2019s Cross by none other than Hitler himself, and, as I will write about below, a man who had served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Program toward the end of the war.
,The man was an Art Historian by profession, and spoke passionately for nearly an hour about what they had recovered, and what they had found in the Merkers mine and elsewhere as the war was ending.
It was spellbinding, and since I had a lifelong interest in art, this particular speaker raptly kept my attention.
At the end of the class, I spoke with him briefly, and asked if he would be interested in having tea at a local restaurant.
He took me up on the offer, and we sat and discussed his experiences until almost dark.
We also struck up a bit of a friendship.
,Over the next few months we had semi-regular lunches and meetings and grew into that easy friendship that brought us quite close.
My then wife and I had him over to our house for dinner on several occasions, and he cooked for us at his house as well.
He was older, a single man who had lost his wife nearly a decade earlier, and over the course of more than two years we became good friends with him.
,Even though it was in the late 1980s, he was older than most of the others who had served during the war, and he spoke fondly of his years in a position as an Art professor before entering the service of the government as a u201cMonumentu2019s Man.
u201d At seventy-eight, his health had begun to fail, and over the last few months of our friendship, his visible physical decline was shocking.
It became clear to us that his time with us was nearing an end.
,He had come to our house one last time for dinner, and quietly informed us that he had advanced pancreatic cancer.
After we dealt with our shock, he smiled and told us that he had enjoyed a good life, had been blessed with a loving wife and a satisfying career.
Then, after we finished a particularly good bottle of wine he had provided, he invited us to his home for what he called u201cone last visit.
u201d After he had gone, I mentioned to my wife that the u201clast visitu201d was a particular ominous phrase.
,Two weeks later we pulled up to his home, and were greeted by our friend.
He looked as if he had only a few days left, but he was gregarious, and in very good spirits.
instead of cooking, he had contacted a very upscale catering service, and our sumptuous meal was what one would have expected at a five-star restaurant.
We enjoyed two bottles of wine that today would probably sell for over a thousand dollars a bottle.
We talked for hours.
His illness notwithstanding, it was a pleasant evening, and it seemed as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
He was in effect, putting his affairs in order, and celebrating his few remaining friendships.
,At the end of the meal, he stood, told us to sit comfortably, and that he would be right back.
We enjoyed a few more sips of the wine, and I looked around at the artwork that adorned his dining room walls, perhaps noticing for the first time that that there were some truly valuable paintings on the walls in that room.
,When he returned he was holding a wrapped gift that was obviously a framed painting.
Then he smiled, and said he wanted to extract two promises from us.
One was that we were not to open the gift until the next morning.
It would be our gift to open after a Saturday morning sleep in.
The other was that we would never reveal what he was about to show us, at least not the complete details of it, and at least not for thirty years.
We were fascinated, and we agreed.
,I was enthralled by what was happening.
The quiet man had transformed into the teacher once more, and as we followed him through his home, he pointed out several works by moderately well known artists, and several minor works by near master level artists giving brief synopses of the work as we slowly walked through the house.
,We arrived at a heavy wooden door with a large deadbolt lock above the usual interior passage lock.
He took out a key, smiled once more, and before opening it, he said, u201cWhat I am about to show you represents the breaking of an oath I took many years ago.
u201d He looked down, and then continued, u201cIt is so breathtaking, and everyone thought it had been destroyed, so I just couldnu2019t help myself.
u201d,He unlocked the door and turned on the lights in the room.
There was a single leather chair facing one wall.
On the wall, under two floodlights in an ornate frame was, what I believe to have been, an original Caravaggio portrait.
,It was indeed breathtaking, and I had no words.
He broke the silence and walked toward the painting.
Take a closer look.
u201d,We followed him to the painting, and I leaned in to closely examined the brush strokes, the colors of the paint, and the small cracks that time had placed on the canvas.
To this day, I have absolutely no doubt that the painting was genuine.
,I looked at him, still with the small, familiar smile on his face, slowly shook my head, and said, u201cI canu2019t keep such a secret.
I know I gave you my word, but this is too much.
u201d,He nodded in understanding, placed his hand on my arm, and said, u201cThen grant me the small favor of at least keeping my confidence until after you open your present tomorrow.
Would you do that, at least?u201d,It was nearing midnight, and I could think of no compelling reason that I had to tell anyone about the painting before then, so I conceded that point.
,We drove home in silence, and my wife quietly spoke about the evening.
She reminded me that I had given my word, and that the man was dying.
Points that I pondered silently as I drove.
,Sleep did not come easily, but I eventually dropped off and we slept until nearly eleven the next morning.
We went down to my den where the unopened package sat on a chair, waiting.
I asked if she wanted to do the honors, and she ripped off the bright red gift paper.
Underneath was an original work by Picasso.
It took the breath out of the room.
,I knew the moment I saw it that it was the u201creal deal.
u201d All of the signs were there; the work was clearly that of the artist.
,There was an envelope taped to the frame containing a short note from our friend, including the original handwritten receipt for the purchase in Paris nearly sixty years earlier.
The receipt was signed by Picasso himself, established the provenance of the work, and, as I think my friend intended, proved that it had not been illegally obtained.
,We had brunch, and then I called him.
The phone rang nearly ten times before I hung up.
He had no answering machine, and this was before cell phones had made their way onto the scene.
We drove to his house to discuss everything with him.
,When we arrived there was an ambulance in his driveway, and three police cars and the Coroneru2019s station wagon were parked on the street in front of his home.
,Sometime during the night, after we had gone home, our friend had ended his life with a massive overdose of the morphine he was injecting for pain.
,I spoke with one of the Police officers and told him that there was something he needed to see.
After the ambulance left, and they eventually let us into the house, we led the officer to the room where the Caravaggio had hung.
The door was ajar, and when we turned on the lights, I audibly gasped.
The painting was gone, and in its place was one of those velvet paintings of dogs playing poker.
,On the chair was a small card with my name on it, and one line.
u201cEnjoy your gift.
u201d,I always wondered where the painting had gone.
I still wonder.