Thursday, June 19, 2008


Couture et Peinture Fashion and Benefit Show

Sala Bianca of Palazzo Pitti. Lucrezia as the “Weaver of Magical Threads” otherwise known as the spin doctor and Head of Public Relations for Gucci, is hosting the fashion gala reception and fashion show called “Couture et Peinture” (Clothes and Paintings). All monies raised from the sale of the Gucci creations and paintings of young artists, ages 15 to 30, will be given to Amnesty International.

For the first time in my life, I feel an ache deep inside my bone marrow for a man – Serge. I had always considered stories about longing for a man, or a lover, romantic nonsense. Probably it still is folderol, but I am indulging myself in it because it is such a rare sensation. I wonder if I shall ever feel these passion again for some other man?

Lucrezia and Serge are alone at last, albeit briefly, in a sea of celebrities at the Sala Bianca of Palazzo Pitti.

“I am happy that this fashion event, Couture et Peinture, is a success for you and for Amnesty International,” Serge tells Lucrezia tenderly, “but,” he adds passionately, “I will be even more thrilled when everyone has gone and we can be alone.”

The Red Contessa, Dominica, mistress of Palazzo Capponi, provocatively asks Lucrezia loudly in front of a crowd of well-heeled people, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just call on our friends with beaucoup loot and ask them to donate even a couple of thousand dollars to say, UNICEF, Amnesty International or the Red Cross?”

“But, Cara Mia, you know and I know that some of these so-called rich make Ebenezer Scrooge look like the last of the big spenders. We must shame the Italians covered in money into giving or it will not happen. That's because they cannot deduct donations from their taxes."

"Lucrezia, did you mention the word  taxes? Italians don't pay taxes, so what would be their incentive? Perhaps impressing la ganza, the lover of the moment," ventures to say Lorenzo Papi, Dominica's brother and another famous resident /owner of Palazzo Capponi. 

Gore Vidal's stentorian voice declares, “As we enter the 80’s, the ball game looks like this. The Haves: better and better. The Poor: worse and worse. This is not an original statement. Miguel Cervantes declared this in ‘Don Quixote’ in the 16th century.”

“I shall contribute $15,000 in cash to Amnesty International; let me see which paintings I like,” Dominica announces firmly, tossing her long blonde hair out of her blue eyes. “Come now, you hard-nosed filthy rich, part with a little bit of your not-so-hard-earned money.”

Lucrezia passes a red plumed hat her grandmother Esperanza had worn in the 1930’s, designed by Coco Chanel. Reluctantly at first, then with more enthusiasm, the hat is overflowing with checks or pledges of “Stop by my bank on such and such a day, they will hand you X amount of money in lire or dollars or pounds sterling.

Serge is closely observing the events unfold with great amusement.

Lucrezia can’t help chuckling. Dominica will have to pony up more money. Two of her latest toy boys, one a sculptor, the other a photographer, have donated works for her Couture and Peinture. She hears one of them tell Dominica petulantly. “No donation – no copulation.”

“I resent that not-so-hard-earned money statement,” announces a scion of a textile conglomerate in Tuscany, writing a check made out to Amnesty International.

“Oh bull, Vieri! You inherited your mega fortune, just like Dominica, from your grandparents. Thank you for your generosity, I’ll always remember that,” Lucrezia opines, giving him a peck on the cheek. She restrains herself from scrutinizing Vieri’s check in front of so many guests. “You’ll hear from me if you’ve been miserly,” she whispers.

“How much has been collected for Amnesty International?” queries Gore Vidal softly.

“I’m incredulous! The usually tightwad, always poor-me rich Florentines have so far given $75,000! Wow!” Lucrezia informs him.

“Che meraviglia (how marvelous). Thank you!”

“Sir Harold Acton has an 81/2 by 11 inch pencil sketch of a ballet dancer signed by Degas which he has announced will be auctioned at Christie’s in London. The proceeds will be divided equally between UNICEF and Amnesty International.. All the expenses for the show are being borne by Gucci.

 Dr. Aldo Gucci, the chairman, being a typical Florentine merchant when it comes to money, was very hesitant at first to part with his personal funds. In Italy, personal donations are not in fashion. All the more reason to be jubilant!”

I shall gladly eat my words after this largesse tonight, I hope this is a precedent, thinks Lucrezia. 

“I know what you’re thinking, my pet,” Sir Harold tells Lucrezia, “but as an adopted Florentine, I can tell you this generosity will not take place very often.”

“Thank God for rare occurrences,” replies Lucrezia. 

“I agree,”  pipes in Serge. “Now we can be alone. As soon as you have thanked all the donors as they file past you and me,” Serge whispers into Lucrezia’s ear, flicking the tip of his tongue into her baroque pearled earlobe.


  1. Your depictions of Florence, the uniqueness of Florentines, and Florence society are fascinating. I feel as if I'm in a rarefied atmosphere, in a place I've never been, even though I have spent time in Florence ... but you create it as a new world for the reader to explore for the first time.

  2. Your depictions of Florence, the uniqueness of Florentines, and Florence society are fascinating. I feel as if I'm in a rarefied atmosphere, in a place I've never been, even though I have spent time in Florence ... but you create it as a new world for the reader to explore for the first time.

  3. My supplement to Jeanne's good comment (above) is:

    And I, as an Anglo-Saxon son of many generations of working class English Yeomen, say, there is nothing more "rarefied" in this story than you could find in any working-class English neighbourhood of Manchester or Birmingham today, or among myriad similar romantic and heroic stories of the lower-working class (and of the very poor, too) of the "ghetto" of North Philadelphia in which I lived when I was a young man. THEIR lives and stories are equally as "rarefied" as this one, and OFTEN MORE SO!

    But Isabel has told this story - one among billions of such stories - with extraordinary artistry. So she deserves laurels for that!


Isabel Van Fechtmann

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