Category Archives: She Poses for Moses

Acclaimed Baltimore-based writer and producer David Simon (The Wire) started the first tale of the purloined painting, “She Poses for Moses, Erroneously (with apologies to Mr. Kelly and Mr. O’Conner)” in The BMA’s Renoir Returns continuing story challenge. Start at the bottom of this page to read it from the beginning and add your 500 characters to the latest posted “evidence”!

Exhibit C: Edgar Degas Self Portrait c. 1856

Self portrait of a young Edgar Degas.

Edgar Degas. Self Portrait. c. 1856. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Saidie A. May Bequest Fund, BMA 1953.205
Throughout his lifetime, Edgar Degas, like Rembrandt before him, produced a significant group of self-portraits. Here, the dramatic shading on one side of the face focuses attention on the artist’s eye making it, perhaps, a window to the soul, a reference to the artist’s sensitive vision, or more broadly, a symbol of human creativity.
After the theft of Renoir’s “On the Shore of the Seine” from the Museum in 1951, the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company paid the BMA $2500 as compensation for the loss. In 1953, the Museum acquired Degas’ “Self-Portrait” with those funds in addition to monies from Saidie May’s bequest.

By Ken James Guessen

Mauve shadows paint their faces.

Monet tells of her last days. Renoir interrupts. Degas squints, listening to the memory as if it were his own.
“Relax your arms like a ballerina.”

She’s goes under. He dives, surfaces.


Tracing the rope to her waist, he lifts.

She arrives coughing, choking.

“A…line! You must learn to swim.”

“Get this off me!”

“La corda salvato la vita.”

“The rope was just long enough to hang me.”
The next morning he taps his razor. His reflection, an echo, his eyes reminiscing.

“I punched a hole in the wall,” he tells her.
Laughter erupts. Monet leaves abruptly.

Read the rest of the continuing story…

Exhibit B: Paul Klee Traveling Circus 1937

photo of painting: Paul Klee. Traveling Circus. 1937. Bequest of Saidie A. May. 1951.317

Paul Klee. Traveling Circus. 1937. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of Saidie A. May, BMA 1951.317
A one-eyed clown wearing a sombrero, a female acrobat, and a donkey all appear before a circus tent with pennants flying. Paul Klee used subtle tones and a stippled technique to create this whimsical nocturnal scene. It is hard to reconcile the childlike playfulness of the drawing with the political events of 1937. During that year, Nazis seized 102 of Klee’s works from museums and public collections, and included seventeen of these works in the “Degenerate Art Exhibition” in Munich intended to ridicule modern art. Perhaps “Traveling Circus” alludes to the artist’s own unsettled situation, as he had been forced to leave Germany and was living in Swiss exile at the time he executed this picture.
Saidie Adler May’s older sister Blanche Adler was an early advocate of German Expressionism and of Klee’s work in particular. In the early 1930s, she had donated two of Klee’s watercolors and a print to the BMA. May acquired Traveling Circus in October of 1940 and Adler, seriously ill, died only three months later. The purchase may have been meant as a tribute to her favorite sister, since it was somewhat outside May’s usual collecting area.

By Peter O’Connor

The bulrushes rustled; the maiden tiptoed closer.

Newborns lay mewing, their eyes shut.

“Wolves!” she gasped.

The princess paused from washing off the mud to pull back the rushes.

“Coyotes,” she corrected, “My brother was raised by wolves. I recognize a coyote cry from a wolf any day.”

The handmaiden whispered, as to not startle, “Remember, a pirate wears a sombrero and does not lose his glasses. A man’s heart will pine until one gives him a swift kick in the ass to find his heart’s true deseo.” Her astronomy with animal totem beliefs became a quilt for Frida Kahlo’s memory.

Read the rest of the continuing story…

She Poses for Moses, Erroneously
(with apologies to Mr. Kelly and Mr. O’Conner)

image of painting in frame: Pierre Auguste Renoir. On the Shore of the Seine. c. 1879.

Pierre Auguste Renoir. On the Shore of the Seine. c. 1879. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Saidie A. May Bequest, Courtesy of the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, BMA 2014.1
Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted “On the Shore of the Seine” around 1879, when he and his Impressionist colleagues were actively trying to capture the momentary effects of light, color, and atmosphere on their canvases. During this period, Renoir spent a great deal of time frequenting sites along the River Seine on the outskirts of Paris, searching for interesting motifs and opportunities to depict the delights of nature and the pleasures of spending time outdoors. With its bright color and expressive brushwork, “On the Shore of the Seine” is a wonderful example of the artist’s high Impressionist style and technique. Close examination reveals the landscape was painted on a type of linen damask cloth consistent with table linens from this period. This discovery lends credence to the story that Renoir might have painted this diminutive landscape on a linen napkin at a restaurant along the river.
In November 1925, while on vacation in Europe, Saidie and Herbert May purchased “On the Shore of the Seine” from the Parisian art gallery Bernheim-Jeune. After making their acquisition in 1925, the Mays displayed the painting in their New York apartment. Saidie May kept the work after their divorce, and in 1937, sent it to The Baltimore Museum of Art on long-term loan. Upon her death in May 1951, the painting entered the Museum’s collection as part of Saidie May’s bequest.
In November 1951, it was stolen from the Museum while on display, reappearing more than sixty years later at an auction house in Alexandria, Virginia. Details about the theft remain a mystery. We are delighted to welcome it back to the Museum, reuniting it with many of the other wonderful works from the Saidie May collection.

By David Simon

Nine months of loose-fitting robes and girlish misdirection were coming to a head, right here, at the low tide of morning.

“Hey,” said the princess to the most trusted handmaiden,  “what’s that over by those white flowers.”

“It looks like a basket,” said her servant, dry as dirt.

“I wonder what’s in it?”

An infant’s cry answered, as if in reply.  Or, maybe, that was laughter.

Read the rest of the continuing story…