The second I saw this painting, I was smitten.
I asked the shopkeeper for more information about the artist. The signature on the canvas was E. Frattin. An internet search revealed nothing. So I walked away from the painting.
But that adorable man stayed with me in my mind, which is a sign that walking away was a mistake. A few weeks later, I checked back in to the shop. The painting was still there and the shopkeeper wanted to sell it. She offered a deal. And I took it.
Back home, painting in hand, I searched again for any information on Frattin, painter, oils, peasant, etc. Nothing.
Then Google came to the rescue. I love you Google. Your clever logo morphs, your kick-butt maps, your PageRank algorithms, your NORAD Tracks Santa.
As I slowly entered the letters of the painter's name into the search bar, Google displayed possibilities or iterations of what I typed. Google literally told me I was searching for a painter named Enrico Frattini, born in Italy in 1890. Sure enough, Google displayed similar portraits of Italian countryfolk. Duh. The frame of the painting obscured the full name.
Enrico Frattini, also known as Enrico Frattini del Case, felt an affinity for peasants and he painted this man with a joyful brush. The turquoise vest, the bright bandana, the jaunty toque perched on the subject's head. All the folds in that toque indicate heft in the fabric, yet it defies gravity in a way that makes me smile.
And speaking of smiles, the subject's smile. Toothless. Gay. With deep laugh lines. I named him Fabio, after an Italian I knew during my college study abroad. Fabio had a toothache, and squired me and my friends around Florence, all the while clutching a white handkerchief to his mouth to ease the pain. Why he didn't pull the bad tooth, I don't know. Too busy drinking espresso and eating gelato with us. Both which caused him agony.
Fabio taught me how to smoke in a more elegant manner than what I had picked up at Girl Scout camp in 8th grade. And we taught him a couple of things also.
He loved American girls but speaking no English, he asked us to teach him something sophisticated he could use in the right situation. Our friend Andy obliged and one afternoon in the Piazza della Signoria, Fabio slunk up to a pretty girl in a UCLA t-shirt and whispered a sweet something into her ear.
As you can guess, what Fabio whispered was so vile, I dare not type it. Suffice to say it involved a donkey. Poor trusting soul. I hope he married a babe.