Although Italy surely lies somewhere in Fernando Botero’s family background, I was quite surprised to find out that the famous Colombian artist has established a foothold in the Tuscan village of Pietrasanta. In an interview given to Marlborough Galleries, Botero reveals that he was first attracted to the area by its world-class foundries but later came to appreciate the people and their lifestyle This summer the work of the late Polish sculptor, Igor Mitoraj, held pride of place in the piazza centrale. However, the south gateway to the village, shown above, and two Botero frescos are permanently on view at the church of Sant’ Antonio e San Biagio.
The frescos employ Botero’s emblematic, pudgier-than-life figures to present visions of Hades and Paradise. In the Hades panel, the round shape of Lucifer and his imps sap some of the hellish imagery created by flames, serpents, and pitchforks. In a bow to the traditions of Latin American muralists and engravers, Botero includes a pair of Calaveras, each accessorized with the trifles of wealth. And as a final touch, Adolph Hitler raises his head from a sarcophagus, as he makes his final descent into the lower regions.
In Paradise, Botero brightens his palate—blue sky, green fruit trees—and paints a crowned Virgin with babe in arms as its central motif. To heighten the celestial effect, Mother Teresa stands prayerfully, canvas left. Botero includes a self portrait, adorning himself in the garb of conquistador, sword poised to decapitate a serpent that slithers under the Virgin’s slippers. At the bottom of the panel, beside fruit fallen from the trees, sits a guitar player, wearing a red dress and a pair of wings.
Who is that?