An Indian Tale
A painting by Achilles De Maertelaere Bentos has recently appeared in the United States. It is a portrait of an Indian, with a background in Gustav Klimt-style. This painting is part of the decoration of Café Bentos, the café in the Lammerstraat in Ghent, which was run by a friend of Achilles called Henri Frans. It was this Henri Frans, whose artist's name was Bento, who inspired him for his own artist's name.
The café was decorated with panels depicting exotic landscapes of the world (Japan, Egypt, etc.). Among these is a large panel depicting an American landscape, with Indians in front of their tents on the right and a cowboy on horseback bartering with two other Indians on the left. The latter part was cut out after the disappearance of the café in the middle of the last century and was put up for sale in 2006. Part of the Japanese panel has also been sold several times. A fragment with another American landscape, with some Indians on horseback, is kept in the Huis van Alijn museum in Ghent.
The old sepia photograph that shows this panel also shows that underneath this scene, four smaller panels each depicted an Indian head. The one that appeared in The United States is probably the one on the right. The other three panels have not (yet) been found.
The painting that interests us here came to the United States via a descendant of one of the members of the Franz Bento Trio, namely Polydoor De Baets (1897-1979). He married Jenny Moreels and together they formed the group 'The 4 Bentos'. Gwendolien Sabbe wrote a very interesting article about Polydoor De Baets in Circusmagazine in June 2020.
The young Polydoor, who made a name for himself under the pseudonym Polly Bentos, was discovered in 1912 by Henri Frans 'Bento' who was looking for a small and light acrobat. He integrated him into the Franz Bento Trio, with whom he toured Europe, North and South America. Polly Bentos toured the world for half a century and finally came back to Ghent and settled permanently in the 'Brugse Poort'.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator