WASHINGTON — The oil painting of a black Russian man lay quietly for years in a back corner of an antique shop in a dingy walking mall in Moscow.
Andy Leddy, a white American working on a U.S. government contract for a refugee program in 1992, a year after the Communist Party lost power, pulled the canvas out and unrolled it.
“Why would there be a portrait of a black man in Russia?” Leddy recalls thinking. “They treated people of color horribly here. But look at it. It’s heroic and romantic. It is odd to see a black subject in a heroic pose.”
The clerks told him the unsigned painting depicted a man named Patterson who had starred in a classic Russian movie, but that was all they could tell him....