Elora, a Novel From The Eighties that was never published until now.
Anthony Maulucci, Italian American author and artist recently published Elora, a novel he had written in the early eighties. It has not surfaced until 2016, and it is truly a literary time capsule. The Paperback Writer and Anthony Maulucci would like to share the prologue with you from Elora. In reading, it is our hope that you can appreciate the talent and beauty with what Mr. Maulucci writes.
A good friend of mine who’s an art historian working for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York made a casual comment over pizzas at Il Giardino that stuck with me for several days. He said, “What do we really know about the models who posed for some of the most important works of European art or, for that matter, some of the world’s great masterpieces?” The next time I saw him, which was a few weeks later, I asked him to elaborate, and he, being naturally verbose and inclined to steal the limelight, was happy to oblige.
He began by telling me about a few of the more outstanding portraits by Renaissance masters such as Raphael, in particular the portrait known as La Fornarina that hangs in one of the great galleries of Rome. Apparently she was a baker’s daughter with whom Raffello had become infatuated to the point of obsession. Next he mentioned Titian’s painting Sacred and Profane Love, which was commissioned by a Venetian nobleman and has a portrait of the woman named Laura Bagarotto whom the nobleman, Nicolo Aurelio, was to marry. The painting was his wedding present to his bride. And of course there is the mystery of La Gioconda, he said. Many artists of the classical periods used prostitutes or servants, and they fell into obscurity almost immediately. I already knew that. “Like Modigliani did,” I put in. “Yes, like Modigliani, but then he had Jeanne Hebuterne, his lover from a strict Catholic family, who committed suicide rather than live without him. Of course, we know a lot more about the models used by nineteenth and twentieth century artists. Renoir, for example, used his girlfriend Aline Charigot for many of his works. Rodin had Camille Claudel. There are Klimt’s portraits of Adele Bloch-Bauer, possibly his long-term lover, Picasso married his models Marie-Therese, Dora Maar, and Jacqueline Roque. Dali used his wife Gala exclusively, Matisse had Lydia Delectorskya and others . . .” And then he trailed off and said it was time he was getting back to the office.
About this same time I saw the Mankiewicz film The Barefoot Countessa with Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart. Gardner plays a Spanish cabaret dancer who is discovered by a film director, becomes a famous movie star, marries an Italian count and is later killed by him in a jealous rage. The movie begins with a scene of her funeral and there is a shot of the sculpture done of her and featured on her tomb.
A few days after this, by sheer coincidence, I happened to walk by a stunning piece of sculpture in a public square off Wall Street. Synchronicity? I wondered. It depicted a very beautiful young woman stretching her arms upwards as if awakening from a good night’s sleep and was called Eternal Youth. It was done in the classical style and seemed inspired by Antonio Canova, the 16th century Venetian master, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the genius who created the Apollo and Daphne sculpture, among many others. I was so taken with the beauty of the work that I sat down on a bench and gazed at it adoringly for some time. I’ve always loved Ava Gardner, and somehow this sculpture became mixed up in my soul with Ava. Being under the influence of my friend’s observations and having a natural curiosity about human nature, which is one of the reasons I became an advocate for human rights, I made the firm decision then and there that if possible I would find out what I could about the model for this work, which was dated 1981. It was now 2015. Since the work had been done in the pre-internet years my search would involve reading through old newspaper clippings at the New York Public Library. Within a few days I had unearthed several articles from The New York Times relating to the sculpture. The woman’s name was Elora Adrian, and she was a fashion model who had fallen from grace in the same year the sculpture was done by an artist named Paul Athanas, now known for his work in a completely different style. Elora Adrian’s story was poignant and tragic, and it moved me so profoundly that I was compelled to write what follows. I would like to apologize in advance to those readers whose sensibilities might be offended by the explicit sex and general grittiness of the tale, but I had to be true to the story and the social realities of the times in which it is set.
Before the curtain goes up on the main story, however, I would like to offer this small scene by way of an overture:
When she was still a small child, before she started kindergarten, Elora lived with her grandmother who was taking care of her while her mother was finishing Harvard Medical School and completing her internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. One afternoon she woke up from her nap and overheard this conversation between her grandmother and one of the friends she had invited over for tea.
“She’s a beautiful child, but the poor thing seems to have been born for tragedy.”
“Really? Why do you say that?”
“Because she’s always getting hurt, falling down or bumping into sharp edges. The other day she ran out of the yard into the street and was nearly run down by a teenager on a motorcycle.”
“My kids are always getting cuts and bruises. Isn’t that true for all kids?”
“Yes, but with Elora it’s more serious. She gets her fingers caught under the high-chair tray, spills hot liquids on herself, steps on a broken piece of glass that’s been lying around hidden somewhere for ages. If there’s something dangerous in the house or the yard you can bet she’ll find it. And the strange thing is she seems to know she’s unlucky. I can see it in her eyes. I’m at my wits’ end to try to keep her safe. I worry about her, I really do.”
“You shouldn’t worry, Ann. You shouldn’t make too much of it. Maybe she’s just a klutz.”
“Easy for you to say. I’m the one who’s responsible for the poor child.”
“She’s beautiful. She’ll be protected by the grace of God.”
“I pray that she never loses it.”
Please permit me to make one more brief comment before we get started: After reviewing all the material available from the newspaper clippings I’d have to say that what struck me most forcefully at the outset was the thought that Elora Adrian was a gifted young woman who was damned by her great beauty. What happened to her was undeniably tragic. Why it happened is a question as profound as life itself. Was she unlucky? Was it her fate, or was it simply a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or did she indeed lose the grace of God? I don’t have any answers. You, the reader, must decide that for yourself.
You can read a sample chapter of the book here:
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