Portrait Lina

2023, Oil on Canvas on Panel, 86 x 57 cm
Of mysterious looks and Aunt Coby

Lina, Wismar, Painting by Manfred W. Juergens Lina, Wismar, Painting by Manfred W. Juergens

It rings. Two girls are standing on our doorstep, one seven and the other eight years old. With a credit card in hand. 'You always have a lot of visitors. Do you know the one whose name is on the card? We found it in front of our house,' said one. 'Yes, he was our guest yesterday,' replies my wife, surprised.

The look of the one with dark curly hair shines through me in a strangely quiet way, as if she wanted to say to me, 'Hey, I know everything about you.'

From now on she waved a little shyly when she passed my studio window.

We planned a neighborhood meeting with the other's father four years after the credit card was found. We wanted to escape the chilly atmosphere in our street and planned a lot. Tonight, we are handing out all 30 invitations.

In the green courtyard of the first house, three sat calmly in the evening sun. The parents relaxed and enjoyed their first glass of wine on this cozy summer evening. We were surprised by a strangely pleasant familiarity. ‘Sit down, what a nice idea.’ There was red wine to drink.

There it was again, the girl with the quiet scanner look. After half an hour I asked 'What did you do today?' 'Come on, I'll show you my rabbits. I’m Lina.’ She carefully took them out of the stable one by one to present her little darlings. The dwarves snuggled up familiarly. Lina's eyes lit up. The rabbit hutch had two floors. A staircase led to the small upper floor. It smelled of hay. Memories awoke and made me think of the rabbits of my own childhood in Schoenhof, Mecklenburg.

That evening it was the only invitation my friend Chris and I handed out. My wife no longer trusted us drunken characters. So, the following day, children happily took over the task of reliably distributing the advertising. Now, they were the inviting ones.

It is strange, but I spent weeks thinking about how I could implement what I had experienced in the neighbor's garden. There was a quiet creature who was still a child, then a girl and soon a woman.

At some point I asked. The parents also approved the portrait.

'Okay, I'll come to you after class,' said the now twelve-year-old Lina. Ede, a school friend, was sittng in my studio and wanted to discuss a class reunion with me after 50 years out of school. Suddenly Lina appeared in the room. There were dwarfes rabbits in her two baskets. She smiled proudly. 'Pick one.' Ede laughed to himself 'It's like a circus here!'

As usual, under the spotlight, I took almost 800 photo sketches with different dwarves in her arms. It was all so uncomplicated and I thought she understood me and could understand the dream composition that I had been carrying around for days.

Of course, weeks later, Duerer and his hare appeared to me at while drawing on the new board. I pulled one of the illustrated books about the master from the shelf. Then I noticed: Lina and Albrecht Duerer have the same birthday. He was born just 539 years before her. Would he have noticed her too?

When I showed Lina the draft of my picture, she said very happily, 'Oh, how nice, Aunt Coby is back, it's like a resurrection!' I did not understand anything. 'Who?' 'Well, Aunt Coby, that's the name of the rabbit, and it was bitten to death by a marten two days ago. Now she's back, how beautiful!'

Lina occasionally sat as a model and openly told stories from her world. 'Do you know I've been engaged since I was one year old?' ,What?' 'Yes, a two-year-old wanted to marry me back then, I actually remember that event, but my parents initially recommended an engagement.' 'And today, do you see him occasionally?' 'He goes to the same school as me now, but it's not the love of life.' 'What do you dream about?' She breathes heavily. 'A vet, that would be nice!'

It's always unbelievable for me when children let me participate in their lives. This makes me young again myself. I never wanted to be an adult.

Back to the beginning of this story. The other girl who showed up on our doorstep five years ago is called Ella. She recently visited me. 'You know Manfred, the theme of your next exhibition is At Eye Level. You could make Aunt Coby's siblings happy by building a small staircase. Then you go into the rabbit enclosure with the finished portrait, place the stairs in front of the picture and the bereaved can see their deceased sister again at eye level, as if in heaven.'

© MWJ, Wismar, 08/10/2023

Erna Tomsen, Zum Silbersack, Manfred W. Jürgens

1976 to today