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Above the door


Besides all of the touristy things to see in Naples, there are the unexpected finds, like this poetically museful door lintel wearing a rope of green beads. I saw it on an apartment building while wandering around the Vomero area of the city. Later that day, I was walking on the Via Toledo, a central artery and shopping street, and saw a sign that Caravaggio’s The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula was available for viewing inside. I had seen The Seven Works of Mercy at the Pio Monte della Misercordia and The Flagellation of Christ at the Capidomonte Museum. The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula was the the third, and last, Caravaggio to see in Naples.

I bought a ticket, and found myself standing in the Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, a ducal palace from the 17th century. Befitting the home of a billionaire of yester years, the interior was opulently excessive, from the bejeweled ceilings to the marbled balconies and the Caravaggio was as great as its reputation. He is a phenomenal painter from every aspect, be it composition, color, light or sensitivity. But what will live on in my psyche is this self-portrait by the artist Francesco Paolo Michetti. It was painted in 1877 when he was 26 years old. There is something in the eyes that I find mesmerizing and transportative.

Francesco Paolo Michetti Self-Portrait 1877

Francesco Paolo Michetti Self-Portrait 1877

I never get tired of looking at them, even in this digitally-transcribed photograph. They remind me of the door lintel above.

I showed Steve the two photos, and asked him if he thought the eyes looked similar.

“Sort of,” he said.

But his immediate association was that Michetti looked like the actor Robert Walker, who plays Bruno in Hitchcock’s 1951 masterpiece “Strangers on a Train.”


Which makes me think, it’s time to watch that movie again!