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Secret Hiding Place Yields Key to Rockwell Mystery

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Secret Hiding Place Yields Key to Rockwell Mystery

Art & Design

Secret Hiding Place Yields Key to Rockwell Mystery

Secret Hiding Place Yields Key to Rockwell Mystery

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5328753/5328804" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The original: Norman Rockwell painted Breaking Home Ties for the Sept. 25, 1954 cover of The Saturday Evening Post. SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN hide caption

toggle caption SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN

The original: Norman Rockwell painted Breaking Home Ties for the Sept. 25, 1954 cover of The Saturday Evening Post.

SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN

The Replica: The version of Breaking Home Ties painted by Donald Trachte, Sr. -- believed for years to be the original. Collection of Trachte Family. hide caption

toggle caption Collection of Trachte Family.

The Replica: The version of Breaking Home Ties painted by Donald Trachte, Sr. -- believed for years to be the original.

Collection of Trachte Family.

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.

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