The Dama de Elche

I first met the Dama de Elche in 2011, thanks to my painter friend, Billie Joyce Fell (www.saachiart.com/billiejoycefell), bringing the Dama to my attention.  I was immediately captivated, both by her presence and her story.  In 1897, a farm worker from the village of Elche (south of Valencia, Spain), was preparing the land for agricultural purposes and dug up this striking statue.  The statue was traced to Iberian times by archaeologists.  Originally she was painted.  Over the centuries the paint wore off.  At the back of her head is an opening which is thought to be a funerary urn.  She is made of polychrome and is approximately 3 feet high.  The pinwheels on her head are indeed fascinating.  Imagine having to wear such headgear!  

When I first began painting her in 2011, I thought about her so much, so much that a small coincidence occurred.  My husband Billy and I were hiking in the foothills behind Maro, Spain.  We sat down on some rocks to enjoy the view of the pines in the foreground and the Mediterranean in the distance.  Just as we were ready to leave, I looked down on the ground for foot placement and beside my left foot, partially buried in the ground, was a tangled bracelet.  I picked it up to examine it and discovered a shape like the Dama's earrings attached to the charm bracelet.  Billy and I looked over the inexpensive bracelet marveling at the exact shape of the Dama's earrings!  

Later, when I finished the painting I fit the bracelet carefully in the back of the stretched canvas.  It was small enough to be hidden from the front and the back unless one was looking for it.  Billy and I found a local gallery that exhibited the Dama painting and two of his paintings.  That is the last I saw of the painting.  For years I wrote to the owner of the gallery and she never answered my emails.  In 2015, Billy Gray, Billie Joyce Fell and I went to a restaurant that had the owner's jewelry cabinet.  Apparently the owner of the gallery died of a heart attack a couple of years back.  The gallery owner's husband and co-owner had loaned the cabinet to this restaurant.  We tried on several occasion to track down the husband/co-owner but did not succeed.  My first Dama painting is now burried some where in Spain, much like the fate of the Dama de Elche statue.

The Dama de Elche statue in Madrid Archaelogical Museum

The Dama de Elche statue in Madrid Archaelogical Museum

My missing painting of Dama de Elche

My missing painting of Dama de Elche

Kathleen Gray *
Kathleen Gray