It's a photo of Lombard having her portrait made. But who is painting her?
Fortunately, we also have the back of the photo, which has some writing and printing on it:
Okay...we learn, first of all, that this was distributed by Wide World Photos. The lower left-hand corner shows it more recently belonged to a collector in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, N.Y., no earlier than 1963, when ZIP codes were established.
We can make out that the last name of the painter was "Appleton." Unfortunately, the first name isn't clear. Initially, I thought it was "Grace," but a Google check shows no artists from that era with that name. Secondly, I checked for "Jean," thinking what looked like a "G" in script might really be a "J" and what looked like an "r" might really be an "e."
As it turns out, there was a notable artist named Jean Appleton, who was born in 1911 and died in August 2003. However, two things work against this hypothesis:
* She specialized in still life paintings. As far as I know, she never painted any portraits.
* She was from Australia, and in biographies of her on some Web sites, there is no record that she ever traveled to the U.S.
A few more searches using different words proved fruitless, although if I ever need to have my portrait taken in Appleton, Wisc., I'll now know where to go.
Perhaps one of you is more versed in art history than I am. Perhaps someone knows where the finished portrait is. Or perhaps this ran in a newspaper during the 1930s, and we can find out that way. Whatever, it's now bugging me.
If you'd like to buy the photo in order to solve this case, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/Carole-Lombard-portrait-posing-CANDID-Photo-1930s-Rare_W0QQitemZ250282096354QQihZ015QQcategoryZ14890QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem. Bids begin at $19.99 (none have been made as of this writing), and bidding will continue through next Tuesday afternoon (Eastern).
By the way, this marks the 500th entry at "Carole & Co." since its inception 14 months ago. Thank you all so much for your support, and plenty more is yet to come.