Who was `Abdu'l-Bahá, and why did He come to the West?

Monday, April 15, 2013

April 14, 1913

Earl Redman writes: 

On the 14th, ‘Alí ‘Abbás Áqá, a Persian carpet salesman who had become very attached to the Master, invited Him for dinner at his home. One of the guests was the Ottoman Consul-General.[i] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also visited the home of Mr Paikert, who lived on a high hill overlooking the city. Afterwards, He visited Professor Robert Nadler, Mr Stark and Count Albert Apponyi.
            Professor Nadler, who was a professor of painting at the Royal Academy of Art, asked if he could paint a portrait of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Master agreed and went to Nadler’s studio on 13 April. Years later, Nadler said to Martha Root:

When I saw ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, He was in His seventieth year. I was so impressed and charmed with His Personality that I had the great longing to paint His portrait. He consented to come to my studio, but said He could not give me much time because He was so busy. I marvelled at His expression of peace and pure love and absolute good-will. He saw everything with such a nice eye; everything was beautiful to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, both the outer life of Budapest and the souls of all. He praised the situation of our city, our fine Danube in the midst of the town, good water, good people. Oh, He had so many beautiful thoughts! I was inspired, and I knew I did not have much time, so I concentrated very much. He gave me three sittings.[ii]

Nadler also talked of the painting in 1937:

. . . he came three times to my studio, and was a very patient model. I was all too happy to be able to paint him, feature by feature, and to be able to immortalize the earthly temple of so highly developed a soul.
I was glad to hear him and his companions say that they thought the portrait a success. They even asked me what the price of it would be, but at that time I had no desire to gain financially by selling the picture, which remains one of my best works. It has been my pleasure to have ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s portrait in my studio for twenty-four years, and I shall never forget the few hours of his presence there.[iii]

‘Abdu’l-Bahá liked the result of Nadler’s work. In 1945, the building which housed the painting was heavily bombed and the only part of the building that survived relatively undamaged was the part containing the painting. The painting was purchased by Bahá’ís in 1972 who gave it to the Universal House of Justice.[iv]

[i] Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 387.
[ii] Root, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Visit to Budapest’, in Star of the West, vol. 24, no. 3 (June 1933), p. 88.
[iii] The Bahá’í World, vol VII (1936–1938), pp. 34–5.
[iv] Smith (ed), Bahá’ís in the West, pp. 118, 125.

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