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From Treatise on an Awakening Sentiment.(Short story)(Excerpt)


Chicago Review

March 22, 2011 | Mozzi, Giulio | Copyright



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So I'll begin: on the evening of December 12, 2004, a Sunday, I was sitting backwards on one of the three chairs crammed into the kitchen-studio of the tiny, first-floor apartment on Via Fabio Filzi in Padua where my painter friend Claudio Laudani lives. Claudio had scattered newspapers over the floor, set up a plywood table, and was dripping paint. Claudio's apartment consists of two rooms and a bath. There's the kitchen-studio with a small cooking space and a window overlooking Via Fabio Filzi. This is Claudio's all-purpose room: for painting, socializing, cooking (when he remembers), studying, everything. The other room has two places to sleep--two mattresses on the floor--and a bunch of canvases and panels, painted and unpainted, some hanging on the wall, most leaning against the wall: a glass door leads out to a tiny, 2-by-21/2-meter courtyard surrounded by an extremely high wall where Claudio often dries his paintings in the summer. You have to go through the room with the two mattresses to get to the long, narrow bathroom. The kitchen-studio includes: a table piled with paper and drawings, an ashtray, pencils, knives, boxes of Toscani cigars, razor blades, books, drawing pads and sketchbooks, and other stuff; a bookcase full of books on art and poetry and mathematics, the top shelves open, the bottom shelves behind cabinet doors; a small refrigerator; the cooking area with the sink, the range top, all the cabinets; the three chairs I already mentioned. In the corner between the apartment door and the window, there's a nine-inch serrated knife on the wall, hanging in a leather sheath. Two black-and-white photocopies have been taped to the door for years: one is a copy of Caravaggio's The Taking of Christ (I'm never sure which version, the one in London or Istanbul) and the other's an Annunciation by Antonello da Messina (the really famous one, with the hands almost in benediction). When he paints, Claudio usually leaves the doors to the bookcase partway open (or else he uses the plywood table) to prop up the canvas that he'll lean against the top part of the bookcase. But in those weeks of December 2004, Claudio was experimenting with dripping, with paint drops, so he was mainly working off the floor.

My friendship with Claudio began on a June day in 2001: it was around ten in the morning, and I was walking along Via San Francesco, headed from home (my old apartment) toward downtown, and as always, I was walking and reading the newspaper, when I heard a voice saying: "Excuse me, excuse me." I looked up. I saw this man, tall, massive, completely bald, but still handsome, wire-rim priest glasses, somewhat nervous. The man said:

"You're Giulio Mozzi, right?"


That's how our friendship started, and continues to this day. I think Claudio got all his friends the same way. I asked him once:

"So your wife--how'd you meet her?"

"Same as you."


"I stopped her on the street. She was a beautiful woman."

"You asked her to pose?"

"No. The photos and paintings came later."

Claudio and this woman are no longer married. Claudio shares his tiny apartment with a friend he sometimes calls "my friend" and other times "my benefactor." Claudio's friend never talks, or almost never talks; I've seen him a few times in the apartment, and those few times he always left right away, or else he retreated into the room with the two mattresses--like a snail if you touch its horns, I once thought--leaving Claudio and me alone to talk in the …