On 15 May 1913, Anton gives Helene two special paintings for their 25th wedding anniversary. The understated, almost stern Portrait of Eva Callimachi-Catargi by Henri Fantin-Latour and At eternity's gate by Vincent van Gogh. He purchases the works in 1912 already but manages to keep it secret. He even acquires At eternity’s gate under Helene’s nose, at the Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne, which they visit together with Bremmer.
These two paintings; Portrait of Eva Callimachi-Catargi by Henri Fantin-Latour and At eternity’s gate by Vincent van Gogh, could easily be seen as an ironic portrayal of their marriage. Anton often makes humorous remarks about his role with regard to the art collection. For instance, when accompanying guests to his wife’s office, he announces that they are now going ‘from the credit side to the debit side’. Nevertheless, the gift also certainly demonstrates his appreciation for Helene and his support for her collection. After Van Gogh, Fantin-Latour is one of Helene’s favourite artists. For her, his work represents ‘that indefinable calm’, as Van Gogh himself described ‘the great strength’ of his colleague. Tranquillity, simplicity and peace, which she also seeks in the designs for her museum house.
Vincent van Gogh, Sorrowing old man ('At Eternity's Gate'), 1890 / Henri Fantin-Latour, Portrait of Eva Callimachi-Catargi, 1881
Helene is naturally ‘delighted’ with the paintings, as she conveys in a letter to Anton: ‘I almost fainted in surprise: among the lights, leaves, flowers sat the weeping man, stood the calm woman. Of course, I could never have dreamed such a thing; even if you had given me the prettiest, largest, most expensive pearl necklace, I could not have been happier. I have a feeling, as if this was the keystone of our collection, as though nothing more is necessary now: what could possibly top that? The paintings are still here, they look much more beautiful in the room, yesterday we admired them in the lesson, but later they are going to Voorhout where I am having a room re-wallpapered for them. Dad, I am delighted with them!’