Getty Center, J. Paul Getty Museum

Honey, They’re Playing Our Painting

Many couples have a favorite song, a tune that conjures up memories of blissful infatuation and unending devotion. Elia and Maranatha have a painting.

Dancer Taking a Bow (The Prima Ballerina) / Edgar Degas

Dancer Taking a Bow (The Prima Ballerina), Edgar Degas, pastel and gouache on paper, 33 1/2 x 27 in. (85.1 x 68.6 cm). Private collection

The couple met three years ago when Elia, a musician, was playing at a club in L.A. One month into their courtship, Elia Petridis invited Maranatha Hay to the Getty Center to marvel at the panoramic views and tool around the galleries. The pair eventually found themselves in an intimate, dimly lit nook at the top of a staircase replete with pastels by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and other European artists. Edgar Degas’s Dancer Taking a Bow, an illuminated prima ballerina alone in the footlights, instantly swept them off their feet.

“We really fell in love with the Degas,’’ said Maranatha, 26, who said she was mesmerized by “a dreamscape so atmospheric, so dainty and beautiful.” The solitary dancer was one of Degas’s most celebrated subjects, and this is an especially large and detailed pastel—the largest version he ever created.

“It was that day,” Elia said, “That we knew it would be serious.”

Elia Petridis and Maranatha Hay at the Getty Center

Elia Petridis and Maranatha Hay at the Getty Center

When he decided to propose marriage, Elia relied on the enchanting painting and the room’s soft lighting to recreate the ideal romantic vibe. (The gallery is kept darker than the other paintings galleries because its 11 pastels and watercolors would be damaged by prolonged exposure to light). On December 30 last year, Elia invited Maranatha’s parents from Washington State and his from Dubai to visit the Getty Center while they were in town for the holidays. At one point, Elia steered his sweetheart into the cozy gallery, whose walls are lined with a rich brown shimmery fabric.

The witnesses to the unfolding scheme included a diplomat, a model, and a little girl, staring out of nearby paintings.

Maranatha was admiring her Degas dancer, perched downstage in a peach tutu and clutching a bouquet, when Elia pulled out a diamond ring and proposed. A documentary filmmaker, Maranatha instinctively recorded the occasion on her cellphone. This audio documents their mutual delight.

[audio:|bg=0x6699cc|righticon=6699cc|loader=0x6699cc|titles=Wedding proposal at the Getty Museum]

Newly engaged, the lovebirds soared out of the South Pavilion, where their parents greeted them with cheers. The wedding is set for July 31. (In case you’re wondering, no, not here—we don’t do weddings, though we are a great place for a date.)

The bride-to-be now has a print of the painting hanging at home. “I like to look at it,’’ she said. “I know that this will mean something to us for the rest of our lives.”

Gallery S206 in the South Pavilion at the Getty Center

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  1. Kellie
    Posted February 14, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Terry Braunstein
    Posted February 14, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    What a perfect Valentine’s Day story! You captured the whole mood of the romance, the art, the experience of these two people. Wonderful blog!!

  3. Judith Samuel
    Posted February 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful post about romance and the Degas painting!

  4. Ruth Broyde Sharone
    Posted February 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    What an absolutely delightful Valentine’s Day Story. This may start a new trend in engagements and ‘HONEY, THEY’RE PLAYING OUR PAINTING,” may become the next most popular tune!
    Wonderfully written, Jessica. Kudos to you!

  5. Georgia
    Posted February 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Sweet story, and an artistic mix of media – text, painting, audio, and life. Thanks!

  6. Amy Jurist
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    What a great story. i love that she recorded the proposal! thanks for sharing!

  7. Samantha
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    What a sweet story – so well written. I love how life and art overlap for them in so many ways. Shouldn’t art be like that for all of us?

  8. Ginny
    Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful observation that paintings are interwoven with our memories and relationships, as songs are. I hadn’t thought about it, but I attach feelings to certain paintings that I have enjoyed with teachers and loved ones, too. Thank you for a lovely story.

  9. Posted July 11, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    This is a very lovely story indeed. Not only photos or songs can bring back old but wonderful memories. Art does too, and this delightful little story has captured such feelings very well.

  10. Mrs Beeler
    Posted July 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    This is so beautiful. Not too many people have an actual recording of their proposal.

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