Edwin and Traudis arrived in Damascus in 1961, Edwin had been posted as Cultural Attache at the Embassy of the United States. In the same year the young Syrian painters, Fateh Moudarres and Louay Kayyali, returned to the city from several years of government- sponsored study in Italy, where they had both won prizes. It was not long before the Kennedys met first Kayyali, one of whose paintings they saw and immediately fell in love with, and then Moudarres.
They enquired about the possibility of buying the painting from Kayyali, a slightly abstracted view of the small village of Maaloula. The painting, an encaustic, is in Edwin's words "slightly reminiscent of Cezanne's style but more rigorous and less romantic". Kayyali sold them the painting and some months later Traudis sat for a portrait. The Kennedys later transferred to Brussels and lost contact with Kayyali. Years later they learned of his tragic death.
They got to know Fateh Moudarres better and bought several paintings from him, two of the best under unusual circumstances: The first, also of Maaloula but unlike Kayyali's, is a completely abstract impression. Traudis was making last minute preparations to receive a number of guests when Moudarres appeared at their door, carrying the Maaloula painting. Traudis was upset and pleaded with him to bring it another time, that her guests were about to arrive. His response: "Fine, just let me in and I'll find a good place to hang it," which he did. In parting he added, "Keep it a while and you'll keep it for good. " Thirty-five years later, for the first time since that evening in Damascus, Moudarres saw his Maaloula in their house in Washington and commented: "The Museum in Damascus should buy that."
After they had left Damascus and Edwin was working in Brussels, Traudis returned to Damascus for a visit. On arriving, she went straight to Fateh Moudarres's studio and found him squatting on the floor, putting the finishing touches on his "The Last Supper". It was a long, narrow canvas, red and black, depicting Christ and his disciples seated around the traditional table, but interestingly, Moudarres had organized the composition in such a way that his subjects were seated around a vertical rather than a horizontal table and the canvas would need to be hung vertically. Over the years they have seen a number of Fateh Moudarres's paintings and they still consider this version of "The Last Supper" to be among his finest. The only comparable example of this subject matter by Moudarres is his "Last Supper" in the National Museum of Damascus, the same size but in the more traditional landscape format.
Property from the Collection of Edwin and Traudis Kennedy