Man tweaks famous painting plaque in romantic proposal to ‘love of his life’ at Edinburgh’s National Galleries

As romantic proposals go, requisitioning one of the most famous Spanish paintings in the world as the backdrop to ask your girlfriend for her hand in marriage must rate amongst the most creative.

José Cava, 39, proposed to his girlfriend Sophia Harrison, 40, in unique fashion at the National Galleries in Edinburgh.
José Cava, 39, proposed to his girlfriend Sophia Harrison, 40, in unique fashion at the National Galleries in Edinburgh.

But José Cava did not stop at leading his unsuspecting girlfriend towards ‘An Old Woman Cooking Eggs’ (1618) by Diego Velázquez in the Scottish National Gallery on the Mound in Edinburgh.

Mr Cava also arranged for a gallery curator to replace the painting’s label with words from a bespoke proposal he had spent time composing.

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He said the painting was special to him because it reminded him of “love and family".

Onlookers clapped and cheered as Mr Cava made his special proposal.

Sir John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, said this was the first time there had ever been such a proposal in any of Scotland’s main galleries.

Last Saturday afternoon Mr Cava, 39, suggested to his girlfriend Sophia Harrison, 40, that they travel from their home in Leith to visit the gallery.

“We met three years ago on Tindr and it was getting to the point where things were getting serious and we were talking about the future.

"The next step was to get married and I wanted to make it something special,” said Mr Cava, who came to Scotland 15 years ago from his hometown of Seville looking for a change of scenery.

“Sophia and me like to go to the gallery and that particular painting reminds me of home and the people I love and care about.”

Mr Cava, a senior technician with CDA architects in the city, contacted gallery staff and asked for their help in making the proposal special by replacing the plaque.

“We were in the queue to get tickets and we could get the gallery to ourselves as I was feeling a bit shy. But it wasn’t too busy because of Covid restrictions.

“Everything had been arranged and Amy Patterson, the duty manager, who put my note in place sent me photos of it the day before. I was delighted with her help and want to thank her so much.

He wrote on the plaque, which had a drawing of a heart and two wedding bells on it, that the painting had been one of favourites since he was little and that it reminded him of summer nights seated outside, summer and his family.

It continued: “And although he was far from home for nearly 15 years, he used to come to the Scottish National Gallery, look at the painting and remember those moments.

“He finally found a partner in Sophia Victoria Harrison. She was a young, successful professional, always elegant and beautifully dressed, with a rich personality, sweet and funny

“And together they run the most amazing adventures in the heart of this beautiful country - Scotland: where they would like to start a family.

“And on 19th June 2021 he finally proposed matrimony to her, in this very place.

“And she said...

Ms Harrison, who works for a large law firm in Edinburgh, said: “Jose had asked me to dress up as I’d be getting a surprise, but I had no idea what was about to happen.

"When I got to the Velazquez painting in the gallery I noticed the label was a bit different from the others and my eye was drawn to it. I started reading and it took me a few seconds to realise exactly what I was reading.

“What made it extra special was that the staff in the gallery were in on it but hadn’t given anything away.

“I turned round to look at Jose and he dropped to one knee and pulled out an emerald engagement ring. I was delighted.”

Visitors and staff in the gallery began clapping and the special moment was captured on video and in photos by gallery staff.

“When we first met we bonded over galleries and going mountaineering. The National Galleries are brilliant. We visit art galleries a lot so the proposal was ideal,” Ms Harrison added.

She added that she later received a message on Linkedin from a gallery visitor who had read the label and wondered what had happened next.

The couple hope to marry in September next year when Covid could be a thing of the past, allowing family to travel from Spain.

Following the proposal the couple went for lunch at Le Bistrot at the French Institute on the Royal Mile where Mr Cava had arranged for his future wife’s parents to be there.

Wishing the couple well, Sir John said: “When Jose got in touch with us to arrange this very special proposal, we knew straight away that we wanted to help.

“It is such a romantic thing to do, and his own connection to our much-loved Velázquez painting is very compelling. It is the first time that any of us at the National Galleries can remember something like this taking place and it is bound to be remembered as one of our great stories. We wish Jose and Sophia the very best for their future together.”

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