An Artist's Vision

The paintings of Sig. Antonio Ecclissi


 

The man who painted this picture, Antonio Ecclissi, was not born in Larino, but he has captured the life of the town just as Signor Pilone has done in his wonderful photographs.  Women are gathered around the Fontana Nuova to carry water to the homes of the more privileged classes.  You can almost hear the hum of conversation.  The fountain still exists behind the Palazzo Ducale.   Unfortunately, the water no longer flows.

 

The artist frequently works from old etchings or photographs, but he invests these images with a strange, dreamlike quality.  Here we see Larino when it was a walled community.  However, if you look carefully you will see the cathedral and the face of the square Tower (popularly known as The Galuppi Tower in honour of its current owner).  The old city gates no longer exist but the remnants of the walls are there.  What saved Larino from modernity were the deep gulleys that surround the community.  It was these valleys which gave Larino an enviable defensive position.

 In this painting we see the town as it is today.  Up on the hill, centre right, there are modern town homes, and - further to the right - glimpes of the new villas which are springing up everywhere.  Left centre is the cupola of the cathedral, and almost at the centre (slightly centre left) you'll see the upper windows of the square Galuppi Tower and, further to the left, the facade of the Palazzo Ducale.  Increasingly the old homes are being renovated and painted in beautiful paste tones.  Because the new town (Piano San Leonardo) was built on the site of the classical city (predating Rome) the old center has been marvellously preserved.  In fact, to walk in the streets is like a voyage into the distant past.  It is my hope that it will never be changed in any significant way.

This painting shows a scene which would be virtually unchanged today.  The monument at the left still exist.  It was placed in front of the palazzo ducale in 1927.  This scene, therefore, is likely before the Second World War.

This is another image of the front of the Palazzo Ducale prior to 1927 and perhaps as early as 1900.  There is no monument in the picture and now, in 2007, the entire front is shaded with old pine trees that provide a cool place to sit and chat during the hot summer months.  Larino (even the new Larino) is full of works of monumental architecture that seem incongruous in a relatively small town of only nine thousand inhabitants. 

To my mind this image would be at home in any of the great galleries of the world.  Drawn from an original photograph (in black and white) the scene is one of affluence.  Beyond the window you can see the lights in what looks like tall buildings.  The Persian carpet is carefully depicted.  The lady, herself, is a gentlewoman with a pale skin that knows nothing of the fields or of want.  At the same time this is simply a photographer's set.  Who knows what the reality of the lady's life might have been.

I find this image particularly poignant.  This soldier wears leg wrappings and has a black funereal band on his arm.  He looks straight ahead and has a cigarette in his hand.  I've often wondered if his name is on the monument to the war dead.  Hundreds of boys in their late teens left Larino never to return.  I've talked to men about their experiences in Russian and German prisons.  They knew nothing of politics and nothing of the great world outside of Molise. 

Signor Ecclisse insists that he is more of an artisan than an artist.  I heartily disagree.  In these strange and surreal images he has captured the feeling of a world that still exists within the old town.  Larino is fortunate to count him as one of its sons.  

 

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