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ARTFUL TOM, A MEMOIR
by Thomas Hoving
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15. NANCY’S POT

Everyone in Rome takes off from the 15th of August to the end of the month. The holiday is called "Ferragosto" (Hot August) and goes back to the time when Emperor Augustus dedicated the month to a series of bibulous celebrations to Diana and maternity.

"Enzo, darling," I asked, "where do we go for this?"

"Rent a cottage on the beach."

"Swell."

We decided instead to make a road trip north to Pisa, Lucca, Milan and Venice.

When he heard the word Venice, Enzo smiled wickedly and asked, "Che cose serva Venezia?" or, "What's the use of Venice?" Spoken like a true Calabrian.

"This trip do we have to see every-bloody-thing?" my wife asked sweetly.

"Only the best of the best and to hell with the dross. No more footnotes. A new art policy -- no more visual gluttony." And for the rest of our lives we've tried to follow that rule.

In Pisa we found the famous Triumph of Death deliciously grisly. Five gaily dressed couples, the pinnacle of fashion and snobbery mounted on beautiful horses, suddenly come across three open coffins. Inside are vilely decomposing bodies covered with lesions, running sores and green and yellow putrefaction. Hordes of worms and snakes squirm in and out of the nostrils, mouths and ears -- and even other bodily orifices. One of the horses carrying the swells throws its neck out into an impossible telescope (rather like the horse in Picasso’s Guernica, I thought) to gaze goggle-eyed at the scene of decay. Several of the wellborn cover their noses in the vain attempt to squelch the stench. About the only creature not affected is a lap dog still sleeping in the arm of the loveliest woman in the group. How can depictions of horrors sometimes be such beautiful art?

We had Milan for ourselves and spent three days browsing the best of the best in that art-laden town. These included the great Madonna in the Brera by Piero -- the one with the perfect little egg hanging down on a gold chain from the center of a shell above the placid Virgin's head. We loved the Poldi Pezzoli museum, formerly the home of a Milanese industrialist of the late nineteenth century who’d collected small masterworks of painting and the decorative arts. Two diminutive pictures were outrageously fine -- a small Botticelli and a tiny, post-card-sized Carlo Crivelli depicting the agony of Saint Sebastian shot full of arrows. The Poldi-Pezzoli became one of my favorite museums anywhere in the world.

In the Castello Sforzesco we stumbled upon a work of surpassing grace by Leonardo da Vinci dating to 1498, one I'd never heard of, the Sala delle Asse, the "Hall of the Wooden Panels." The square room had a 6-foot high wooden fence laid against the walls. Behind the fence and in the ceiling were spectacular frescoes of mulberry trees with their branches intertwined. Hanging in the branches were coats of arms and inscriptions belonging to the patron of the work, Ludovico Sforza and his wife Beatrice d'Este.

Compared to this virtually unknown fresco by Leonardo the Last Supper was "a wreck," as my wife put it accurately. The artist had experimented with a slew of untested materials for the wall in Santa Marie delle Grazie, even using a sort of encaustic or paint mixed with soap. Records indicate that the fresco was peeling off the wall during his own lifetime. The 1942 bombing of Milan caused serious damage and by 1956 the painting was a ghost. I didn't see how any original brushstrokes by the master had survived. No one in Italy mentions any of this inconvenient history -- of course.

We weren't prepared for what Venice would really look like. Who is? The city cannot be photographed or even memorialized in great paintings, because it is a "musee d’ambiance" in four-dimensions. The shouts and laughter of the people, the smells, the chunking of the water buses, the shimmering wafts of wind on the still waters, the sudden movement of a flag, the abrupt changes of scenery around a corner or curve in the canal are vital parts of Venice.

It's hard to say what we didn’t see in Venice, for there are so many best-of-bests. We might not have examined every single Tiepolo or Tintoretto and did avoid the Museums of the Risorgimento and Arms and Armor. But we swept Venice and Torcello up, down and sideways.

"How many jaw-droppers was it today?" my wife would ask at the end of a ten-hour day while sitting for a nightcap in San Marco.

"Jesus, fifty!"

"And the biggest thrills?"

That might have been two or three Giovanni Bellinis, especially the dark Virgin and Child between Saints Catherine and Mary Magdalene, whom we voted the most luscious young lady in town.

Or, the Frari Altar by Titian, whom I had ignored in photographs at Princeton, but was dazzled by in the flesh.

Or, Veronese's football-field-sized Feast in the House of Levi. This one because of the painter's chutzpah in face of the Inquisition, for the documented story goes that Veronese painted the giant canvas as The Last Supper and had included some clowns and some hard-drinking Germans, to which the Holy Office objected. Veronese simply changed the title of the work to the House of Levi (where, presumably, it was okay to have vulgar buffoons).

The biggest jaw-droppers of all were the paintings in the School of St. George of the "Slavs," La Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavone, where Vittore Carpaccio had created the most heavenly works, depicting Saint Jerome in his office, Jerome with the lion and Saint George lancing the ugliest dragon in paint, one that had half-devoured a group of victims.

Or, Verrochio's stark bronze equestrian statue of Condottiere Colleoni in the piazza of Saints Giovanni e Paolo.

Or, the bejeweled Pala d'Oro in the cathedral and even the somewhat stunted early Christian sarcophagi embedded into the facade of the Cathedral along with some apparently pagan sculptures, one showing Hercules lifting Anteaus off the ground. We learned later that these "early" sculptures were Venetian fakes of the 12th century put there by the builders of the church to make it seem as old as any of Rome. And, of course, the four Greek bronze gilded horses possibly by Praxiteles on the church balcony, pillaged in 1204 by the Venetians when they sacked Constantinople.

We deliberately got lost and lurched into the city through labyrinthine corridors in which one had to turn sideways to navigate. We would emerge an hour or so later into an unknown piazzetta, pretending we were starving and perishing of thirst, finding a marvelous restaurant where we had a scrumptious dinner and a bottle of the Venetian bubbly, Prosecco.

When we dropped in at Harry's Bar a bunch of revelers from a film festival bash were crowding the place and it was fun spotting the celebrities. We laughed at several middle-aged American ladies, each arm-in-arm with a young, darkly handsome Italian youth. Each gigolo was dressed in white trousers, a blue blazer with tennis racket tucked firmly under his arm. "Sportivo."

Over the years we returned to Venice a dozen times, once during New Year's when the town was blessedly deserted, and discovered works of art, buildings, restaurants and cafes which we had no idea existed. Another time we rented a small diesel-powered motorboat and without a guide or a map navigated most of Venice's 178 canals for three glorious days -- that was for an article for Connoisseur magazine, for which I was editor-in-chief in the late 1980s and early ‘90s.

Can Florence really be "seen" in five days? Of course not, but we gave it a try. Roman friends had recommended the Albergo Firenze, located in a piazza the size of a small living room where we could leave the car. We found one room with heat and a bathroom. We would return a dozen times to this little hotel (which also served as a discreet brothel) and once after a year’s absence I was greeted by the desk staff by name and was handed a paper bag in which were a pair of Nancy's bra and panties which she'd left on her last visit.

We were guided through Florence’s treasures by my Princeton professor James Holderbaum, who had an apartment on a winding, narrow street going up to the suburb of Arcetri. He showed us the "in" restaurants and "secret" works of art. At a cocktail party at his place we met some snotty art historians from Harvard and Yale who avoided me when they learned I was a mere graduate student. One chap, a Britisher with an outrageous high-pitched voice and thick Oxonian accent, was the only one who was polite to us and interested in what we were doing. He turned out to be a curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the late John Pope-Hennessy. We became fast friends. Years later, I had the opportunity to save his career when he was about to be canned as director of the British Museum. I hired him to a top position at the Metropolitan with a very high stipend, a free apartment and four months off so he could be in his beloved Florence.

On our dash home we drove into an unprepossessing town called Aquapendente for dinner. The proprietor of the humble trattoria urged us to try the distinctive local white wine by the name of "Est, est, est," pronounced in one word, "Aystaystayst."

"Gods, this is sweet, and tender and marvelous. What the hell is it?" Nancy cried out.

"Says here on the back of the menu, 'Prelate Fugger on his way from Rome to Florence in the fourteenth century sent his servant ahead to the towns on the way to critique the wines. If he wrote "Est!" -- it is! -- that meant it was a very fine wine. He stopped in Acquapendente and wrote "Est!" Prelate Fugger stopped and drank. Several days later his last words were, 'Est! Est!! Est!!!'"

A spectacular exhibition opened in Rome, called "Arte del Seicento," devoted to 17th century masterworks with an emphasis on the influence of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio on European art. His monumental Beheading of St. John the Baptist had been shipped up for conservation work from Malta and the refurbished canvas was the centerpiece of the show. The picture showed a surprisingly slim and elegant executioner just after having sliced off the Saint's head. In the pool of blood the painting was signed, "Michelangelo."

Despite its brutal subject matter the picture glowed with vitality. Nancy and I went a dozen times to soak up the one hundred or so works. From that superior show I became an accomplished connoisseur of 17th century Italian painting. It was at this time that I realized the scholastic importance of massive shows -- later derisively called blockbusters. It would have taken me years to see the works contained in the Seicento exhibition. That experience heavily influenced me when I became director of the Metropolitan Museum and mounted my own blockbusters.

Aunt Greta, my father's older sister, came down from Stockholm for Christmas and New Year’s. Greta Hoving Persson was a stocky, round-faced, outspoken, over-sexed, highly entertaining member of our clan. She had run away from home at sixteen and married an entrepreneur in guano and had followed him to the Argentine. They married and eventually returned to New York with the business. The Perssons hitched up with the avant-guard artsy crowd, especially the theater gang in Provincetown. Greta became, she claimed, a lover of the young Paul Robeson and a close friend of Eugene O'Neill.

After the death of her husband in 1937 and the Herculean task of paying off all his debts, Greta got involved in the Spanish Civil War and was part of a group of Swedes who shepherded a dozen male and female children out of Spain, hoping to make it to Sweden. They had gotten as far as Compiegne when the Germans invaded France, so she was stuck there for most of the war. The hot-blooded Spanish children matured and she was forever separating them just before or after intercourse. She laughed. "My scheme was to stop them just after, and get them married, which I did for almost the whole group."

The SS tried to send her and her charges to a concentration camp but a sympathetic Wehrmacht tank commander saved them. Greta immediately became his lover.

I adored her as the upscale Bohemian she was who was happy each day as long as she got her smokes (two packs a day) and her Scotch (a bottle a day).

Enzo had offered us his medical suite and we transformed its clinical environs into an extra bedroom with its own propane heater and hot water, which was far more than we had.

Nancy and I gave each other seriously practical gifts -- a total fix-up of the Renault and an electric water heater for the bathroom that looked like an iron lung hanging dangerously over the tub emitting disturbing gurgling noises like the beginning of a volcanic eruption. The thing cost fifty dollars with installation. The day before Christmas Eve the workers installed it by tearing apart and re-assembling our bathroom. They finished by cocktail time.

Greta gave me a little archaeological prize, a glass cup found with the famous early Christian Antioch chalice in the Cloisters. Gustavus Eisen, the man who had published the chalice, was a patient of my grandfather’s. Found with the chalice in 1910 was a Syrian glass pitcher and a drinking cup. The dealer who owned the chalice had given Eisen the cup which he gave to my grandfather. The King of Sweden got the pitcher. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased the chalice for the Cloisters as the possible Holy Grail. My intact little cup was clearly typical Syrian of the 5th-6th century and covered by the most attractive green iridescence.

Rome was disappointingly gloomy during Christmas owing to the Suez Canal crisis. At Santa Maria Maggiore an ancient Cardinal made a hash of the High Mass attended by only a handful of people. I spent the ceremony wandering around gazing at every detail of the magnificent mosaics with my binoculars. The interior was aglow with every light blazing, a once-a-year pleasure.

For New Year's Eve dinner we went to "da Giggetto" a trattoria in the ghetto and feasted on clams, mussels marinara, shrimp and octopi cooked in white wine. The restaurant was hopping and we moved to our table an adjacent one with a dozen Italians, making a mammoth spread. Our Spumante toasts were punctuated by the bursting of firecrackers, which the waiters kept throwing under the tables. Greta had brought a bunch of traditional Swedish sparklers, "tomtebloss," and we handed them out to everyone in the place. We almost burned the joint down.

Before the stroke of midnight we dashed home because then the streets would become hazardous. Back then the way Romans celebrated the moment of the new year was to throw into the street every piece of broken or chipped glass or crockery saved up for the occasion. At midnight in Rome all the tharrumps and crackles of the fireworks were drowned out by a blizzard of glass and porcelain. We threw a cracked toilet bowl into the skylight of the Communist paper beneath our apartment, laughing at its satisfying crunch.

To cap the evening off Nancy and Greta had baths at three thirty in the morning to enjoy our blessed new, instant hot water and to sober up.

An architect friend at the American Academy, Charlie Brickbauer, persuaded us to join him for a weekend in Austria for skiing, in Sant’ Anton in the Arlberg. We intended to go for a long weekend on the way to Vienna hundreds of miles to the East, but became entranced by the modern skiing style and the laughably low prices -- an all-day instructor cost about four bucks -- so we stayed in Sant’ Anton for a month.

I had a strange vision there one late afternoon. I had gone up to the top of the mountain alone after my class had broken up for the day and found myself on a terrifying, ungroomed run with icy bumps five feet tall. I managed to stitch my way down, falling repeatedly when, nearly at the bottom, I heard someone whistling on the trail above me. Suddenly, a figure clothed entirely in black raced by, turning deftly on the very tops of the tank-trap-like moguls. Was I delirious? Then, I heard someone yodeling and another figure, this one clothed all in white powered by, even faster, smacking the tops off the ice moguls as he flew.

I limped into the restaurant at the railroad station, ordered a hot wine and told the bartender of my vision. "What you saw was real," he told me. "The guy in white is Toni Sailor and the guy in black is his coach, Pepe Stigler." Sailor, a Sant' Anton native and the greatest skier in the history of the sport, two weeks later would become the first skier ever to win three gold medals in the Cortina d'Ampezzo winter Olympics.

We fell in love with Sant’ Anton and nearby Zuers-am-Arlberg and would return once or twice a year for over two decades until the dollar crashed.

In Vienna most of the museums were closed for repairs, so I didn't recognize how great the art treasures of the city were until years later after I had visited a dozen times. To me, the Kunsthistorisches Museum is the richest gallery in the entire West, beating by miles the Louvre, London's National Gallery and the Prado. A roomful of Pieter Breughels was almost all that was open in the Kunsthistorisches. We were overwhelmed by his wit, expression of humanity and, in certain unforgettable works, his way of depicting of sheer terror.

The modern art gallery in the Belvedere -- shabby and unlighted and cold -- was open and we were entranced by the shimmering golden semi-art-Nouveau portraits by a painter who at that time was fairly well unknown outside of Vienna, Gustav Klimt. His gold patterned portrait of the socialite Adele Bloch-Bauer and his sensual Kiss made a profound impression on us. We fell in love, too with some very naked nudes by another Viennese artist of the turn of the century, Egon Schiele.

We went looking around the galleries hoping to buy a drawing or print by either painter. In one shop we found two works by Gustav Klimt. One is a watercolor of an actress in profile, throwing her head back in abandon. The other, a pen drawing, depicts two naked ladies in bed just having made love to the artist or to themselves or all to three. The price was about twelve dollars for the pair. We snapped them up.

I asked the owner if he had anything by the intriguing Egon Schiele and, since I had warmed him up by telling him I was an American graduate student in art history -- his son was at M.I.T. -- he said he did. He showed us a pen drawing on brown paper of a clitorally-naked young woman, which, as often with Schiele, was more haunting than sexy. We bought it for about ten dollars.

Then he put on the table a pencil study of another nude by Schiele and, side-by-side, three prints he had made of it.

"Here, take this eraser and erase some of the print."

Really? Please do it. I did. The print of the drawing did erase. I was astounded. The dealer informed me he had figured out how to make erasable prints of pencil drawings. They were perfect forgeries, he boasted; since a prospective purchaser could erase a tiny part, he had no idea the "drawing" was a fake. God knows how many he made over the years. I think I’ve spotted at least a dozen of his intriguing forgeries.

We departed Vienna with blistering hangovers brought about by carousing the night before at a hot strip joint. It was a morning of stony silence punctuated occasionally by outbursts at each other for minor matters like a bag not packed in time or the slow arrival of breakfast or the crucial road map left behind in the room. Nancy's veins stood out blue against her skin like mole channels on a bright lawn -- her symptom of exhaustion. Mine was a temperature, a dripping, scratchy cough and intolerance to everything on earth. It's a wonder we reached Udine that evening, especially since it was raining sheets the whole way and we got yet another flat tire.

"That'll cure the hangover," my suffering wife trilled as I mucked around in the rain and mud. By the time we arrived in Trieste, we exchanged hugs and kisses and beggings of forgiveness for the hangover humiliations we had heaped on each other.

We ducked into the majestic Duomo of Padua to inspect the massive marble and bronze High Altar by that quirky, super-great early Renaissance master, Donatello. I wanted to see his strange bronze Madonna and Child on the high altar beneath his crucified Christ. The style of the Madonna looked pure Romanesque of the early twelfth century, not in the least mid-fifteenth century.    

"Why?" Nancy asked.

"There was a revered early medieval Madonna, which was destroyed by fire and Donatello was asked to make a ‘new’ one in bronze. Of course he had to make it similar to the revered, blessed one and thus the Romanesque feeling."

"With an observation like that, I don't think you'll have all that much trouble with those exams at Princeton."

"Not if I can make it up like I just did," I laughed. Amusingly enough, my story turned out to be what had actually happened.

"Bless the Kress Foundation!" was my wife's reaction when we saw the recently restored frescoes by Andrea Mantegna in the Camera degli Sposi of the Palazzo Ducale in Mantova. The wall paintings show the Gonzaga family members and their colorful and very fashionable retinue taking part in some family festivities. The painted cupola with its balcony and oculus is a tour de force of radical foreshortening that only Mantegna could pull off -- the view to the open blue sky looked infinite. From the balcony a series of mischievous putti and gorgeous, saucy young women peered down at the festivities.

"They must be the mistresses who'll join the Gonzaga men later," Nancy observed. And she was right.

After a day and a half in Parma we decided that this small and radiant city would be a place where we’d like to stay for months. The restaurants were among the best we’d encountered in Italy. The art was all over the place and magnificent. Corregio, one of the greatest Renaissance masters of them all, appears triumphantly throughout the city. His works in the Galleria Nazionale and the Duomo are mind-benders. As for Romanesque art there was Antelami, who in the twelfth century had carved every available surface in town with sculptures of saints, sinners, kings and queens, the months of the year, grotesque creatures from the cantos of Dante and allegories of all kinds, some of which looked downright pagan.

Once we returned to our apartment Nancy told me, "You have a telegram. Seeing what’s on the outside you might not like it."

It was addressed to Lt. Thomas Hoving. Knowing that the Suez crisis was still bubbling and imagining a return to the Marines for an amphibian landing in Egypt, I didn't open it for three days. Finally my wife advised that I might get court-martialed if I didn't.

The text read: "Happy birthday. Love Dad"

That’s when we learned that the Italian code for night letter was "Lt."

The Suez crisis annoyed us for we had planned to join an Egyptian Princeton graduate, Samy Shenouda, in Alexandria and help him in a dig. The Egyptian authorities banned all foreign travel for an indefinite period.

Shenouda showed up at our doorstep after a meandering two-month sea voyage from New York to Italy. Samy was a gray-eyed, dark-haired handsome man in his mid-thirties who came from an ancient Coptic family. His training was Pharoanic archaeology but he had come to Princeton to gain a degree in the general history of art. He was gentle, vibrantly intellectual and possessed a wry humor. When he got excited he would cry out, "Dear John!" For John the Baptist, I presumed.

I suggested we all go to the Etruscan necrology at Cervetri twenty-five miles north of Rome, the site of thousands upon thousands of ancient graves. The guard at the entrance warned us, "No tools, no digging and no taking of anything. You can touch and look but you must put the piece back near where you found it. That's the law. Very strict," the guide said with a laugh. "No taking."

"Absolutely no taking," we said in chorus. But that's what we were there to do.

The guide urged us not to miss the most recent excavations a short distance down a certain dirt road. Nancy's ears pricked up at that, for she was itching to find a few stray shards or pieces that excavators might have left behind. She spent most of the time stooped over fingering small, crude bits of discarded workers' ware and scratching like a hen around the rose bushes planted in front of the holes excavators had made in the side of the beehive tombs.

I wandered into a small orchard and was gazing off towards some tufa cliffs dotted by caves so I almost overlooked a small, freshly thrown-up mound of dirt. Then a glint caught my eye. On the top of the mound was a large fragment of black bucchero ware, which looked like a fragment of a neck of a vase. There were irregular incisions on the ink-black, dirt-encrusted shard. I showed Nancy and Samy my big find.

"Is there any more?" Samy asked excitedly.

"Yeah, but why?"

"These are fresh breaks."

I hadn't perceived that.

We went back and in a few frenzied fifteen minutes we'd filled our pockets with similar black pottery, which dated, we suspected, to the 7th or 6th century B. C.

At home over drinks we laid out our hoard on the salon table and saw that we did have some finely executed bucchero, covered with neat incisions. We soaked the shards and cleaned off the caked mud.

"Dear John!" Samy suddenly cried out.

He made a perfect marriage of two pieces with delicate traceries. More "Dear Johns" came as an almost entire neck of a bucchero vase came together. The vital, springing curve of the neck was wonderful. It definitely had sacredness about it; it was something once used for veneration. We realized that it was something far more important than some crude drinking vessel used by some humble worker in ancient times. Soon we had put together a neck for a vase, a fragmentary pair of cups and a partial low, melon-shaped bowl.

"These are no doubt the remains of sacred vessels used at the grave-side libation ceremony and left in memory of the departed," Samy told us.

We had but one thought on our minds -- to get back to Cervetri the next day and find more. We did and gathered several handfuls of black shards at the same place, which were clearly part of our hoard. At length the mound had given up all its possessions. Samy and Nancy wandered down into the orchard while I searched for more mounds near the one we’d found our shards.

"Kiss Nancy," Samy called out to me and I ran to join them.

"Delighted."

She proudly showed me a muddy object -- not a fragment, but the intact bottom of a pitcher.

Back home we spread out all our pieces on the table. "Dear John!" In seconds we saw that the "Nanni-pot," as Nancy's find was dubbed, fit perfectly with the lovely neck we'd assembled the evening before.

The next day we visited the Villa Giulia and the Etruscan Museum in the Vatican to compare the "Nanni-pot" with their precious items. In a case at the Villa Giulia we found its twin, a vase surely dated to the late 7th, early 6th century B.C. Yet, the "Nanni-pot" was finer by far. The label spelled out what Samy had suspected that these special pots were indeed used at the final graveside ceremony in commemoration of the departed.

After Samy had left for Egypt, Nancy and I visited Cervetri again, hoping to find more bucchero treasures. We took several wicker baskets to hold our picnic lunches and wine and partly to camouflage our real intentions. We went to our mound and saw that the hole been widened. That meant that an illegal digger, a "tombarolo," must have dug up and discarded our discoveries. We scratched around but found nothing of interest and decided to have lunch before moving to another fresh mound.

A man suddenly loomed up over us. Accepting our offer of a glass of wine, he squatted on the corner of our blanket and told us that he was a government agent -- one of eight in the vicinity -- who patrolled the tombs, especially at night. He pushed back his jacket to show his revolver.

"It can be dangerous out here and we exchange shots from time to time with the ‘tombaroli’ who tend to be hotheads and one wants to avoid being in the middle of a fight between different squads of them. That happened to me last week, but I fired back and they left."

"How many ‘tombaroli’ do you catch?" my wife asked weakly.

"A dozen a month. Sometimes these 'night-crawlers' are accompanied by 'stranieri,' foreigners. You are Americans? Just having a pleasant lunch here? I find it amusing that you have picked this spot. Do you know where you are? Look into that shaft. See, there's an ancient door carved in the tufa. This is an entrance to an ancient tomb. The night diggers will try to come back and break in."

Smiling, he gestured to the side of the mound. "’Tombaroli’ know that in ancient times there was a ceremony to the dead when wine was drunk and the vessels left at the side of the tomb. I see no remains, which means that they have already carried off the pieces. Or, someone has. If I had found them I’d have hauled 'em off to the Questura and there's a fine or even jail time."

By now he was into our cheese and antipasti and had quaffed another glass of wine. He told us that four thousand beehive tombs had already been found and thousands more still existed -- all unexcavated.

"I especially like Americans," he said. "The Germans destroyed all our peach trees and the Americans gave us grafts to bring them all back to life."

When we gathered up our stuff he smiled knowingly, I thought, and followed us all the way to our car. We had no doubt he had seen us with Samy before but after meeting us had decided to let us nice "stranieri" go.

The Nanni-pot graces our apartment today.


This is chapter 15 of Artful Tom, A Memoir, which is being posted in full in Artnet Magazine. For the complete book to date, click here.


THOMAS HOVING is author of Master Pieces: The Curator’s Game (2005). He is former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He can be reached at Send Email