Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cardinal in the Chapel

Cardinal Giovanni Aniello Andreas Acquaviva was born in 1908 in Cremona, Italia, though his father was actually from Napoli and his mother from Florence. The family was of minor nobility with a title of Count. Giovanni Aniello grew up in his mother's mansion in Florence. His father, Gianbattista, was an architect who designed mostly residences for aristocratic and high-placed patrons, though some commercial buildings of his survive. Gianbattista was closely connected with the Fascist government of Mussolini. There is a persistent rumor that young Aniello was actually the natural son of famous Italian writer Gabriele D'Annunzio, who had a brief affair with Aniello's mother. 

Aniello originally intended to pursue an academic career in Italian literature, aesthetics, and art history, but at some point decided to go into Church service instead. He wanted to be a Dominican but was convinced by his family not to be a penniless mendicant but a secular priest in order to handle family finances. Aniello continued his academic career as a priest but also was recruited as a diplomat, eventually studying at the Vatican's diplomatic school in Rome.

Over the years he was posted to many countries where the Vatican either had a diplomatic mission or had ambitions to increase the influence of the Catholic Church. After World War II and the fall of Fascism, Aniello's architect father fled the anti-Fascists and Allies and took refuge with Francisco Franco and his regime in Spain. 

Aniello was posted to Japan in the 1960s where he became a devotee of Japanese culture and learned the language. In the mid-1960s he became the Apostolic Nuncio (Vatican ambassador) to Spain, where his father's many contacts in the Franco government were very useful. After a term of office as Nuncio, Aniello returned to Rome where he was placed in the Roman Curia. Since ex Spanish Nuncios are usually elevated to the rank of Cardinal, Aniello was created Cardinal in 1969.

I met Cardinal Acquaviva in 1971 at the American Academy in Rome, where he had been invited by the Director to give a lecture on the aesthetic and atheistic/Catholic philosophy of American George Santayana. In those days I was already seriously interested in the Catholic Church and had done a lot of study and drawing on Catholic subjects, using the library of the American Academy, where I was living with my parents. The Cardinal became a symbol of my Catholic quest, which naturally he encouraged. 

I did this drawing in his honor. The Cardinal beckons the viewer into an elaborate small chapel. The Cardinal's name and the date (1971), along with a theme-word ("Harmonia") are inscribed on the pediment and the Cardinal's red, black, and green coat-of-arms appears in the center, surmounted by a symbolic Cardinal's hat.

The drawing is done all in pen work with colored inks. In those days (I was 18) I had a lot more time on my hands. The drawing has faded a lot from those days but the magic of Photoshop has retrieved some of it.

Read all this so far? Sounds real doesn't it...But "Cardinal Acquaviva" is a FICTIONAL CHARACTER and I made all of this up. The only thing "real" about it is my affiliation with the Catholic Church, and this little drawing which had languished in a dust-covered frame in my mother's house for more than 40 years. 

"Cardinal Acquaviva in the Chapel" is inks on Canson paper, 8" x 12", 1971. Click on the image to see my obsessive pen work.

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