When Caesar’s owner Susan commissioned me to paint his portrait in 1992 she was living on a beautiful farm in Texas called Southerly Wind Andalusians, and her stallion Caesar was her pride and joy among the many horses she owned. She asked me to paint Caesar just as she had photographed him, with the backdrop of beautiful Spanish moss. She had enhanced the photo by putting vaseline on the lens – an intriguing if messy special effect. She loved the portrait and hung it proudly in her home.
A few years later I received a call from her with the shocking news that her seemingly perfect life had shattered. Her husband had been abusive, and she had fled their home. He lashed out by trying to destroy the thing that meant the most to her; her horses. She learned that he had taken the horses to auction, where some of them, including Caesar, were sold to slaughter houses. She then said, “Your portrait saved Caesar’s life”. I was dumbfounded. She told me the story that in her haste to leave, she hadn’t even been able to pack her belongings, much less any photographs of her horses. All she had of the portrait was a photograph of the artwork I had sent her when I shipped her the original. When she found out that here horses were sold or worse, she began looking for them at every holding pen in the state. Months went by, and she found a few of her horses, but she couldn’t find Caesar. She began to despair, until one day – she went to one more holding pen of horses bound for slaughter, and she showed the photo of the portrait to one more man who seemed to pause a beat when he saw the photo.
She pleaded with him to help her, and he led her to a paddock. There stood the shell of the horse she had loved. He was severely underweight and she could barely recognize him, but it was him. She asked the man how he had recognized the horse from the photo of the portrait, and the man said his markings and coloring had seemed familiar and he thought it might be him. Susan said, “If you hadn’t painted him so accurately I may have never found him.”
Susan and her horse were reunited, and the began to build a life together. What became of the portrait I don’t know… but she had her horse back, and that’s what can never be replaced.