Many couples have a favorite song, a tune that conjures up memories of blissful infatuation and unending devotion. Elia and Maranatha have a painting.
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.”
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.
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:http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/files/2011/02/elia_maranatha.mp3|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.”