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Secret Hiding Place Yields Key to Rockwell Mystery

The mystery surrounding the inconsistencies in one of Norman Rockwell's most famous illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post has been solved: The original has been found, hidden in a secret compartment in a family home, while the painting believed to be the original turns out to be a masterful forgery.

The picture -- known as Breaking Home Ties -- depicts a working-class father and his college-bound son. The boy is a portrait of anticipation, wearing a wide-eyed expression and his best Sunday suit.

For decades, the painting's flaws stumped Rockwell experts. Something about it wasn't quite right: The colors looked dull; the wrinkles in the clothing didn't fall quite the right way.

The owner of the painting was Donald Trachte, Sr., a former friend and neighbor of Rockwell. Trachte and his wife bought Breaking Home Ties in 1960, and he kept the painting after they divorced.

It turns out Trachte -- who died in 2005 -- had painted an almost perfect replica and tucked away the original in a secret compartment behind a bookcase in his home.

His son Donald Trachte, Jr., talks to Michele Norris about how he and his brother found the painting about two weeks ago -- and cleared up the mystery of Breaking Home Ties.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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