In the opening sequence of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, we see a helicopter carrying a statue of Jesus Christ over Rome, past ruins, past new housing developments, and finally settling in St. Peters Square. It shows the complexity of the eternal city of Roma, with modern life taking place among the ancient ruins and the strong influence of the Catholic Church.
Italy is filled with great art. It’s everywhere. It’s in the churches, the architecture, on street corners. When we think of the great renaissance in art, we think mainly of Italy. When you are surrounded by that much beauty and antiquity, you have a great respect for your community and your heritage.
Finding Yourself in Art
In researching my family tree I sometimes go to Google and search for the name “DeRosa” to see what comes up. I found some paintings that I thought were from the Renaissance era (1400s to early 1500s) but after some research realized they were from the Baroque period which was booming in Naples, Italy from about 1590 to 1720. The artist’s name was Francesco De Rosa known as “Pacecco De Rosa” who was active in the early to mid-1600s. Pacecco also had three sisters, who modeled for many of the painters. One sister in particular named Annella (sometimes called Diana) was also a skilled painter.
In looking through Pacecco’s paintings, I found a picture that looks remarkably like me. It’s known as Jesus and the Adulteress (pictured above). Now you know when someone tells you that you look like someone, and you think, “hmmm not really.” But I really do think this picture looks like me when I was in my twenties. I like to think we are related in some way. Possibly the model for this painting was his sister Annella. I haven’t been able to trace my family tree back that far yet. And there is not much information about Pacceco and Annella. So it’s all in my imagination at this time.
I’ve always been fascinated by people who can paint. I’ve tried myself many times. And while I can create a picture that is pleasing to the eye, I am definitely no artist. After my mother died last year, my brothers and sisters and I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where they have the most famous of Pacecco De Rosa’s paintings, The Massacre of the Innocents. In true 21st century fashion we took a group selfie in front of it. Walking around a calming place like the museum, looking at centuries of great beauty and art, helped us heal a little that day.
It makes me wonder how these traits run in families. When researching the Irish side of my family tree, I found that my great-grandfather (my mother’s mother’s father) was a glass blower and later the manager of a glass blowing factory in Philadelphia. My sister has always loved colored glass. Does she get that from him? We’re planning to take glass blowing lessons this summer for fun. Who knows, maybe she’ll find she has a real talent for it.
Creating Your Own Art
I encourage you to get out and see some great art. Go to a museum or a concert or a ballet. If you can’t get out, watch a great film (may I suggest La Dolce Vita?), or turn on the classical music radio station.
Or buy some paints and a canvas and create your own work of art. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Just paint with colors that you like. Hang it on your wall. Every time you look at it, you’ll be reminded that you made that. I find when I paint, I get lost for hours in the activity of it. It’s like a meditation. There is no room for worry when you are fully concentrated on the task.
Experience the universality of great art. It connects us all, no matter what race, sex, religion, income level; we’re all the same. We’re all human. And we’re all capable of great art in some form. It’s what separates us from the animals. Find your art. Find your talent. Find your strength. And share it with the world.
You’ll be living la dolce vita when you are sharing your talents with others.