At age 87, Gill Machado thinks the painting he lost nearly 40 years ago is worth finding, even if it is a paint-by-number.
Machado painted a replica in 1975 of Thomas Gainsborourgh's "The Blue Boy" portrait. The original 18th-century oil painting is of Jonathan Buttall in shimmering blue satin and knee breeches with a feathered hat in hand.
Machado's late-ex-wife, Myrtle, gave his painting away and he hasn't seen it since. He is offering a $100 reward to anyone finding the painting, which has his signature in the bottom right corner.
The painting's only real value is that Machado also made a replica of Thomas Lawrence's painting "Pinkie." It is another 18th-century oil painting portrait of 11-year-old Sarah Barrett Moulton standing in a flowing pink dress.
The original "Pinkie" and "The Blue Boy" hang facing each other on opposite walls in the Thornton Portrait Gallery of The Huntington Library in San Marino. Though painted by different artists 25 years apart, they are a famous pair.
William Wilson, author of "The Los Angeles Times Book of California Museums," has called them "the Romeo and Juliet of Rococo portraiture" and their likenesses have appeared on everything from refrigerator magnets to lamps.
Sarah was called "Pinkie" by her grandmother, which is where the portrait got its name. Sarah, 12, died within a few months of the portrait's completion. Her younger brother Edward was the father of poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
"Pinkie" was the last painting purchased by American railroad magnate Henry Huntington, in 1927, but he did not live to see it installed in his home.
Machado has seen the original paintings in the gallery and wants his to face each other as well.
"I want 'Blue Boy' so I can hang it next to this picture," Machado said as he gestured to the girl in pink's painting. "They should be together."
Machado tilted his hat and laughed, saying he didn't know what inspired him to spend $85 for an ad in The Californian. He hopes someone will call. No one has yet. But to him, the money was worth it.
His hand trembled slightly as he pointed to his portrait of "Pinkie" and said she needed the boy in blue. Her golden frame is 22 1/2-inches-by-33-inches, the same size as his missing blue boy.
Machado has painted three or four replicas of "Pinkie" and about three of "The Blue Boy." Each took 20 to 30 hours to complete.
The last boy in blue he had was given to his ex-wife's daughter-in-law, but Machado hasn't seen her in at least 30 years.
"I haven't the foggiest idea where (the daughter-in-law) is. I called Myrtle's son, who was married to her, and they divorced," he said. "So I have no idea where she's at and a vague idea of where he's at."
Machado recently became a great-great-grandfather and wants to leave the paintings as a legacy for his family.
The lifelong Bakersfield resident has completed 20 to 30 paint-by-number pieces of art, giving most away. He's not sure why he took up the hobby, but has always enjoyed looking at art and does a variety of woodworking as well.
"I like the finished product and I think you have to be born with that talent if you paint," Machado said. "If you aren't born with it, you do it by the numbers, but you (still) have a liking for it. I like the finished product."