Stories From Italy: By B.

September 17, 2010

Today I would like to extend a warm welcome to a new (and old) friend: B.  Yes, he has broken his silence.  I seriously never thought he would appear here (as a contributor anyway)....he who turns his nose up at Facebook, Twitter, texting, blogging and most other forms of social media.  And he almost wouldn't let me post this. He wanted me to get back some of the readers I lost (sniff sniff!) while we were gone on our trip by putting up some stories and photos of Italy, and getting some "interest" as he called it.  Oops.  I will try to get those out to you.  In the meantime, please show B some love, will you?!  :-) 

Can I introduce you to someone? His name is Adorno Bonciani. He is 90, and lives in Florence. He painted from 1947 until he could paint no more two years ago. His paintings are playful and light, usually including singing children or fanciful dragons or playful musicians or wedding processions—or some combination of them all. He was especially successful in the 1960s, and had exhibits throughout the world. Here are samples of his work from this period:

Jora and I like the playful quality of the art. But, we also cherish the fact that we have spent time with Bonciani in his home in Florence. I first met him in 2002 (without Jora there), in what became one of my favorite travel experiences. I was already a fan of his work, having seen one of his paintings with my friend Kathy in a gallery in San Diego. Then, in September 2002, I again saw some of his paintings in a hotel in Florence. Long story short, I looked him up in the phone book, ripped out the page with his name, dialed the number, spoke to him, took a cab to his house, visited for four hours with him and his wife, bought some paintings, and ended up in his “Cinquecento” (is there a smaller car?), with him at the wheel—81 years old and with a partially paralyzed left arm—buzzing through the backstreets of Florence, navigating, it seemed, by feel alone.

Jora and I visited Bonciani the next year. He was 82 then, and he and his 75 year-old wife were very gracious and welcoming. Bonciani was happy to tell us his life story. He explained that the couple was never able to have children; that his only children were his paintings. His paintings were everywhere in the home: on every wall (including the kitchen) and even scattered, loose, around the home, against this or that piece of furniture. These paintings had literally never left that home, for 50 or more years. Bonciani explained both his love of the paintings, and of his desire to sell some of them: they were, practically speaking, his retirement. Buying a painting that day, which we did, was bitter sweet, as we knew he could use the money, but also that he was parting with something he cared about.

I called again this time when we arrived in Italy. Again this time, he was there; and, again, he would be happy to see us. Things were different this time, however: when I asked of his wife, he explained that she was now gone, having passed away, unexpectedly, five years ago. 
{c-man hanging out by bonciani's gate}
When we arrived at the home I was greeted by a nurse. Bonciani’s earlier stroke now reduced him to a wheel chair, and in the constant company of a relative stranger.

Jora asked me whether she should take a photograph. Not wanting to injure Bonciani’s pride, I said no. I know now that this was a mistake. It is unlikely that we will have another chance to meet again. Adorno explained that his body was failing him. I suggested that his mind was strong and that he would live a long time. He said that he hoped that was not so.

This, obviously, is hard to hear. But it is also understandable, as Adorno now finds himself alone, with only his “children,” the paintings. 
{c-man and juju petting one of bonciani's cats}
We had a nice time together. I reminded him of his trip to America in the 1960s, where his English consisted of saying, whenever possible, “A Coca-Cola for me and a Coca-Cola for my wife.” (Jora likes to bust that out, for no particular reason, every now and again.)

I am glad our kids were there this time and were able to meet him. C-Man seemed to sense something important was happening, as he was very serious and respectful. He was excited to see “our” paintings in a book Adorno religiously maintains of all of his paintings, with detailed notes about the purchasers from around the world.

Knowing that this is more my thing than hers, Jora kindly prevailed on me to purchase more paintings (“Won’t you regret it if you don’t?”). We bought three, on credit—as Bonciani insisted.

After an our hour or two at the house, Jora and I left with six children—three of ours and three of his.

35 comments:

  1. A lovely and moving post.

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  2. Hello B! Thanks so much for introducing me/us to Adorno and sharing his story and beautiful talent. Great post.
    I hope we 'see' you again!

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  3. That was lovely. Thank you for posting, B. I feel as if I just met a new friend in Adorno.

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  4. Beautiful story B!
    His "children" will be well taken care of. I'm sure of it. ;)

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  5. Thank you for the beautiful story and sharing the beautiful art.

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  6. Beautiful and moving;) Thank you for sharing..

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  7. Awesome story. Thank you for sharing!

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  8. It really is a great story. Sad, but beautiful. I'd love to visit Italy in this lifetime.

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  9. How marvelous that you took the initiative to meet him in the first place, and to build a relationship with over the years. Love that C-Man caught on that something special was happening.

    More guest posts from B, please, especially since you will enjoy looking back on them yourselves...but the vignettes from your trip will be wonderful for us too.

    jbhat

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  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  11. I've been reading for a while, but haven't commented before. This was a very moving post - thank you for doing it.

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  12. Good content, B! Welcome to the blog. You're a natural.

    Pls post your paintings!

    Jora, love the new design. yay.

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  13. What a great post! I think B should have a regular guest spot covering art and culture. And beekeeping. :)

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  14. Alice Q: what a great idea! At one point he wanted to do a "Things You Never Knew About Jora." I'm not scared...bring it!

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  15. A nice break from all that kid and household fashion stuff that Jora posts! Nice job, Sir.

    Sr. Avalanche

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  16. I have always admired the painting hanging in your nursery, I never knew the story behind it! Lovely story and I can't wait to see the new "children."

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  17. Wow, this was INCREDIBLE to read...

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  18. oh man, this is awesome. Welcome, B! What a delightful first foray into this sordid blogging business :) I loved this story. More please!

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  19. Love the paintings and the story!

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  20. Never commented before, but loved that account. Thanks.

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  21. This made me tear up, too! He sounds like an incredible man. Did you happen to take any photos of him on any of the other trips? Well done, B. Please write more!

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  22. Well, I certainly enjoyed reading this post. I'm a fan of the art as well, you know. Can't wait to see more of his legacy in your home! What a bittersweet meeting that must have been.

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  23. B-

    What a beautiful story! My husband and I just read it together, as after the first paragraph, I knew it was something that he too, would enjoy. It's amazing that you had such a personal experience with this man and his "family"... and that you now have a variety of paintings to cherish and keep his story alive in your own home.

    Great idea to peak "interest"... very supportive.
    She has definitely not lost me as a reader (*but I have missed her in my neck of the [internet] woods). :)

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  24. Fantastic, heartwarming story! CJ and I are inspired... hope to see you all and the new paintings someday soon!

    CP

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  25. Great post! I'm a big fan of this blog. Love the stories. This one made me cry :)

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  26. What a great story. Well written Mr. B, I think you're quite a natural for this blogging thing, visit again soon :)

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  27. this is a gorgeous post. well done b!!

    jora -- i'm totally digging the new look over here...fantastic!
    xo

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  28. i looooooooove this. i want to meet this sweet italian man and sit amongst his paintings chatting with him by the hour. it sounds like it was a really special time. can we see the paintings when/if they're up in your home?

    and nice to meet you b. your wife is awesome!

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  29. what a beautiful story. it left me in tears.

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  30. I have a Lithograph of his, "The Old Palace" 265/450. Does anyone know the value?

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  31. What a beautiful story. His paintings are so lovely; they have a child-like quality to them.

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