Search is on for mysterious girl shown in artwork

Nashira Davids

DO you know this girl? Better yet, are you this girl?

Russian author Boris Gorelik is looking for you. Gorelik’s biography of renowned artist Vladimir Tretchikoff hits shelves this week. And tomorrow the painting titled Hindu Dancer will go under the hammer in Cape Town.

“It is not one of Tretchikoff’s most famous works, but it is significant because it is one of his first portraits to fully explore the exotic dress and outlook of his subjects,” said Gorelik, whose book is titled Incredible Tretchikoff.

“Besides, it’s probably the first of his ‘action’ studies’, when he tried to capture the motion on canvas in the same way Futurists had done before him. I would love to know who the model was,” he said.

Auction house Stephan Welz & Co expects the artwork to fetch close to R1-million. The Russian-born artist moved to South Africa in the 1940s.

Possibly his most iconic work was titled Chinese Girl, a painting of Monika Pon-su-san, who worked in Cape Town.

Millions of prints of this painting have since been sold around the world.

In March, the artwork, which was painted in the late 1950s, sold for close to £1-million (R15.3-million) in London.

Gorelik said he tracked down quite a few of Tretchikoff’s models.

Today Pon-su-san lives a quiet life in Johannesburg.

“I’m still amazed at how unpretentious she and her family are. Their lives weren’t easy.

“The Green Lady didn’t bring them fortune and fame. And still, Monika says this was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to her,” Gorelik said.

He also tracked down the woman who posed for two other well-known paintings, Miss Wong and Lady from the Orient.

As for the Hindu Dancer, a Sunday Times article in 1959 unmasked her but she has since disappeared.

“Among 6000 visitors to the exhibition yesterday was the beautiful five foot professional dancer from Durban, Champa Chameli, who posed for Tretchikoff’s Hindu Dancer, the centrepiece of his US tour, and Indian Dancer. She attracted much attention in the crowded gallery,” the article read.

Today, Gorelik is still searching for Chamel. He contacted Indian dance organisations and historians of the Indian community yet nobody seemed to know who she was.

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