The Portrait of Marisa van Zee was painted by Skipton.


The painting was completed by Skipton c.1890 and allegedly passed a number of times through auction houses and galleries, including Paris, London and Moscow, mysteriously appearing alongside the bronze monkey sculpture by Duparc and Barbedienne. Eventually it was sold to Horley by Max Falcondale, who had heard a number of stories about the painting as told by the artist's daughter, Leonora Skipton. Leonora allegedly 'couldn't stand the picture - loathed it.' She confirmed provenance and identification to Falcondale and stated that she had 'wished it had been burnt the day it was painted'. Leonora's advanced age ('must be nearly a hundred') was taken by Horley as an indication that the painting was completed during her youth some eighty years prior to 1970, however Grinstead states he was present at its painting whilst working for Bertrand Garnier aged twenty-three, which implies that the portrait was painted at some point in the 1940s or that it was painted in another world. Grinstead merely states that 'time passes differently in different worlds.' After showing the portrait to Grinstead, Horley suffers anaphylactic shock and dies, and Grinstead steals the picture, though leaving the bronze monkey as 'it would follow in its own time'. After Grinstead is hit by a taxi on Oxford High Street, the portrait is returned to Horley's College and an inventory is made of his possessions, the picture and the bronze monkey side by side once more.


The portrait was oil on canvas, no more than 15 inches tall and 12 inches across and displayed in a gilt frame. It depicted a young woman of eighteen sat modestly before a pink curtain and was strongly painted. Her head is slightly tilted with an ambiguous expression, and her hands are clasped before her. Her hair is fair and tied loosely with a red ribbon. She wears a dark blue blouse 'thing' and a cream-coloured skirt. Horley describes the portrait as plain and simple as to content, however it blooms with colour when displayed. Grinstead identifies her as Marisa van Zee and states that he was present at its painting.[1]

Behind the scenesEdit

  • The way the portrait's expression is described brings to mind Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
  • Horley's College may be Exeter College, where Philip Pullman studied.[2]


Notes and referencesEdit

  1. The Collectors
  2. The short trip to Oxford High Street that Grinstead makes is feasible from Turl Street, and it is also fitting that the story ends with the portrait and the statue reunited at the place Pullman pays most homage to in His Dark Materials.
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