Driving on a mountain cliff in Kandy, Sri Lanka, through a narrow road, we came upon the well-known Helga’s Folly, a hotel that is described as an anti-hotel that strives for hospitality in a unique environment, engulfed by art. Upon arrival we stumbled upon two women who were working on paintings. Intrigued we started talking to them, and came to learn they were from Virginia and that we were in the presence of the talented artist, Jane Lillian Vance. Jane was hand-delivering the only portrait that Madame Helga has ever asked for (the owner and creator of Helga’s Folly), to her home in Sri Lanka.
As Helga told us, “My first husband gave me a very beautiful gold 17th century frame on Valentine’s Day, and wanted me to choose an artist whom I thought could do a portrait of me…The frame hung empty for 47 years until I met Jane!”
This room is at the entrance of Helga’s Folly and has been called Jane Lillian Vance’s Grotto. Helga’s portrait has a garden of tulips, bird of paradise, wisteria and pansies, alluring hummingbirds and elephants. In addition to the portrait, Vance has painted a 10′ x 15′ mural on linen with a painting that has a gold leopord who is to be the guardian of the Grotto, many portraits of Helga’s family and other images.
These two women met by chance years ago and had a strong connection that has kept them in touch for years. They both love and care for art, living through it every day. We too met them by chance and were fortunate to enter their world and get a glimpse of the magic taking place in these walls. The hotel and the Grotto are truly spectacular and worth a stop in Sri Lanka.
The Folly has pictures of celebrities lined on the walls including, Alec Guinness, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Vivien Leigh and is the place that inspired Kelly Jones of The ‘Stereophonics’ to write the single ‘Madam Helga’.
Helga and Jane are living their dreams through their shared love and appreciation for art.