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The kindest face greeted me as I walked through the door of the Casale di Valle. Chef Anna, in her always present white cap and crisp white apron, embraced me with a generous hug and two pecks on my cheeks. She didn’t speak English, and I spoke a horrible mix of Spanish, French and Italian, but that Hug was pretty universal. As I painted Anna’s portrait, posed over the carved soapstone sink in the upstairs kitchen, I realized what was so familiar about her: her posture was reminiscent of what my Babu, my Polish grandmother, had adopted in her later years. Petite, slightly hunched, always arms outstretched for a big embrace. And, her profile reminded me so much of my Nani, my Italian grandmother. Nani was always cooking, always saying “Mangia! Mangia!” Anna personified some of the best qualities of the family Matriarch: warmth, generosity, and care. These notes are present in every bottle of DaVinci Chianti.
This portrait is taken in the upstairs kitchen of the Casale, which is not where Chef Anna worked during our stay. However, because it was closer to our rooms, it was always stocked with fruit and drinks and snacks. I happened to catch Anna one afternoon as she was refilling our fridge and asked - well, gestured - for her to pose near the sink. At first she just stood sweetly, but it felt too forced. So I placed the bowl of grapes in the sink and asked her to wash a few. That put her in her element, and she relaxed, and I got some beautiful shots to work with.
I find the easiest way to work from photos is to use a monitor in my studio. Adjustments to lighting or composition are easily done in a simple photo program, and I can zoom in for detail as needed.
This painting is 16" x 20" on an oil primed linen panel from Raymar.