Crawling through the streets of Pietrasanta, little Julia slipped through a large, open door along a reddish wall, her mother following her a few steps behind. Once inside, Giulia realized she'd ended up underneath the vast arches of a church. After a few steps, she arrived in front of a figure that looked gigantic to her.
Directing a question at the painting, the little girl asked point blank, “Why are you so chubby?”
“You're a tough one!” the painting replied resoundingly, as the terrorized Giulia leapt backwards. Suddenly she heard a meek voice, but a supportive one, whispering from the walls at her shoulders.
“He’s really a fatso!”
This time, the hiss had come from another painting—a black devil clumsily wielding a fiery sword.
“You must be good looking!” Giulia quickly responded, her words immediately overwhelmed by the voice of a painted woman in the front.
“You poor heathen! You have no right to speak in this place! I’ll squash your murmuring just as I did this snake!”
At that point Giulia’s mother entered the church, and her daughter rushed up to her immediately: “These paintings talk, Mama! I heard them bickering!” Dust particles, cut by a ray of light, danced peacefully in the space between the two silent paintings.
“What an imagination you have…the paintings, which are actually frescoes anyway, don’t really talk, Giulia. At least not in the way you mean it.”
“But I’m telling you, they talk! Both of them! Also, Mama, check out these chubby cuties! Have you ever seen a Virgin Mary with so many rolls??!”
“Giulia!” the mother raised her voice. “We don’t talk about the Virgin Mother that way!” Inching closer to her, the mother took Giulia by the hand and took her to the center of the nave, in front of two frescoes, pointing out some small details.
“…and they’re really not fat. Look closely. It’s a question of volume—everything is bigger. Look at the mandolin that the angel at the Virgin’s feet is playing…look how round it is. And look at that snake… how she almost looks inflatable! Or look over there!” she said, moving toward the other painting, “look at those skeletons! Look at how full and thick those bones look!”
“But Mama, why did the artist do it this way? Couldn’t he draw like all the others?”
“These frescoes were done by a painter named Fernando Botero. It’s his style—he thought that figures, when shown like this, were a bit more…sensual.”
The child moved toward the wall again, pointing at a figure in a white dress with blue trim. “But this one…”
“Good job, that’s Mother Teresa of Calcutta, there on the left, you remember how she was super thin? And now, look to the other side.. if you look closely there at the bottom you ought to see another face you recognize…”
Giulia moved closer to the painting and suddenly lit up when she saw a chubby face with whiskers: “Adolfino!”
good job. Do you see what’s coming out of his head? From a tomb at the base of
the Devil, pure evil! This painting
is called the Doorway to Hell (the Porta
dell’Inferno), dear—and the other is the Doorway to Paradise (Porta
del Paradiso). So tell me, do you like learning about this kind of thing?”
“Well, let’s go then, because this beautiful city is packed with paintings, sculptures and amazing things to see!”