Eric Dever

Villa Francesco

Villa Francesco

The Flowers of St. Francis, (in Italian Francesco giullare di Dio, "Francis, God's Jester”) is a 1950 film directed by Roberto Rossellini and co-written by Frederico Fellini. Rossellini was enchanted by stories neglected in the materialistic world. For Pier Paolo Pasolini, who responded in a 1966 press conference to a question about his own film, The Gospel According to Matthew, “I may be an unbeliever, but I am an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief.” Pasolini considered Rossellini’s film "among the most beautiful in Italian cinema.” François Truffaut called it "the most beautiful film in the world.” The film is based on 2 books, a 14th century novel Fioretti Di San Francesco,"Francis, God's Jester” and The Life of Brother Juniper, both relating the life and work of St. Francis and the early Franciscans. I Fioretti is composed of 78 small chapters, the film itself focuses on 9 parables or moral themes.

In 2010 I traded a New York apartment for what would become an art studio and garden on Eastern Long Island. Tucked away on a graveled path and concrete block was a statue of St. Francis with a raised arm missing a hand. Down the road was the fabled mansion turned convent, Villa Maria. Joe Pintauro remarked that the statue was a handsome St. Francis and suggested naming the property Villa Francesco. He recited Wallace Stevens’ poem, The Anecdote of the Jar:

I placed a jar in Tennessee

And round it was upon a hill.

It made the slovenly wilderness

Surround that hill.

The Wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.

The jar was round upon the ground

And tall of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.

The jar was gray and bare.

It did not give of bird or bush,

Like nothing else in Tennessee.

In 2019, a slab of thick marble, part of the original altar from Our Lady of Mount Carmel-Annunciation in Greenpoint Brooklyn, salvaged by Joe and remaining in his garden for over 5 decades, was lowered into the center of the studio garden, St Francis placed on top as dragonflies flew overhead. Here, flowers make their appearance in the spring beginning with hellebores, snowdrops, daffodils, forsythia, the tree canopy, magnolias followed by dogwoods, an indoor cala lily, irises, lily of the valley, roses, lilacs, day lilies, sunflowers, cosmos, morning glory, cleome and milkweed; which all hold symbolic and personal meaning. The magnolia tree is associated with perseverance, love of nature, joy and beauty; the dogwood, a symbol of rebirth, resurrection and purity. I planted this garden, and like each plant, every painting is a friend and revelation.