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Lost Painting Found

Does the brother's painting reveal more about his life?

The Judge's brother was an artist. We know that from newspaper articles and a poignant tribute written by the secretary of his Harvard graduating class.

We know this brother, Frank Luques, died, in his early 30's, when he went for a swim in the Saco river and never came out.

Before his death, he took part in an art exhibition in Boston in 1892, his work displayed along with artists who would become the greats of that generation--Thomas Eakins and Childe Hassam.

But what I did not know--and could not know--was what Frank's art looked like. Was he as promising as the tributes said? Might he have made the name "Luques" famous? Is he the reason The Judge befriended the artist Abbott Fuller Graves and had Louis Norton paint the murals in our house?

The challenge in finding an example of Frank's work was that he died before his name might mean much to those who owned it now, if it still existed.

I found a clue, however, in one of those stubborn searches that anyone on the hunt for something does--repeating old trails, looking one more time.

The Lithgow Library in August Maine, (below) founded the year after Frank died, with backing by Llewelyn Lithgow. (Want to guess what The Judge's middle initial "L" stood for?)

I reached the current head of the library in Augusta and explained that I was looking for a painting by Frank Luques, donated to the library by his family shortly after the library was built.

"The Feast of Glaucus" sounded familiar, she said. But she believed the painting had been auctioned off in 2016 when the library prepared for renovation.

The painting was gone.

"Do you have a photograph of it?" I asked.

About a week later, she sent this this photo.

The Feast of Glaucus, by Frank Luques. photographed in the Lithgow Library before the renovations. It's a bit blurry, but it's the beginning of tracking down the original painting or high resolution photograph.

I recently learned that Glaucus was a Greek sea-god that came to the aid of fisherman and sailors in storms. It's fitting that a young man raised with the stories of Kennebunkport sea captains might gravitate to this myth. It's haunting that Frank, himself, would die in the water, however, with no sea-god to rescue him.

Glaucus is said to have taken male lovers in addition to his stormy affairs with women. We will never know what secret stories Frank conveyed in his paintings but at least now, we have a chance to see one.

Next Clue: there may be a Luques painting in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

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