Whatever happened to the portrait of Carlota Valdez?


Carlota Valdez was Madeleine Elster/Judy (Kim Novak)’s alter ego/great-grandmother in Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo (1958). Her portrait plays an important role in the movie, a ghostly bond with a past that merges with the present in a spellbinding, supernatural way.

The painting in question got lost when removed from the Palais de la Legion d’Honneur in San Francisco. It was the work of an American Expressionist painter, John Ferren (1905-1970), by request of Alfred Hitchcock. Ferren initially painted Vera Miles, who had to decline the role when she became pregnant of her third child. I’m not really sure if there was a second painting or if Ferren merely changed the face when Kin Novak was chosen.

Just like the red balalaika in David Lean’s Dr Zhivago or the the red sled used by Orson Welles for Citizen Kane, its whereabouts remain unknown…


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