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An intellectual and two artists

Rome, 1935. A large dining room in an old house. A piano echoes the sounds of one of Chopin’s nocturnes.

Sitting at the table, a 17 year-old boy with color pencils, paint and paper with sketches. On some of the sheets of paper, paintings in progress. Most are not finished yet, but the hand that created them surely knows what it is doing.

At the boy’s side, a middle-aged man reviews the draft version of a text that he has just finished, and is supposed to mail by the end of the afternoon.

The man is Francesco Bianco, a writer and international correspondent for Jornal do Brasil, a newspaper based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The pianist, his wife, is Maria Bianco-Lanzi who, besides being a piano virtuoso, is a highly educated woman.

The boy involved with paintings and drawings is their son, Enrico Bianco who, encouraged by his parents, has been studying drawing and painting since a very early age. His masters included famous names in Italian art, e.g, Deoclécio Redig de Campos, who was once a director for the Museum of the Vatican.

He is now a student of Dante Ricci, a former teacher to the Royal family, although not very famous. Ricci was a very skilled and strict teacher; he passed on to his students not only art techniques but also the concept of rigid discipline, a required trait for anyone who intends to take artistic work seriously.

The father gets up and leaves, heading to the post office. The boy, who practices at least six hours a day, is still absorbed by paints and pencils. In the background, the piano music fills up the room and inspires the artist.

Adio, Italia mia

Then the piano went silent. Forever. The Bianco family was living through one of its saddest moments. Growing problems that seemed unsolvable aggravated the painful loss of the wife and mother.

Francesco Bianco had once been a state representative for the Christian Democratic party. With the rise of fascism in Italy, he fell into disrepute. Jornal do Brasil, the newspaper for which he worked, was also experiencing the effects of an increasingly closed political regimen in Brazil after president Getúlio Vargas took office. As a result, Bianco was dismissed.

His erudition and extensive personnal relationships in Italy could have assured him a new job there. However, to work in the press, or in any other communications media, he would need to have a fascist identification document, which was certainly something for which he would not, and could not, apply.

Another possible solution would have been to go to Brazil, where he had been in 1920. He had the promise of a job at Italcable, the telegraph service company that competed with Western, the American telegraph service provider. But he would need passports, and they had already been denied to him. Bianco was considered an enemy of the state – someone who was undesirable when nearby and uncontrollable when afar.

Avanti tutti

Aware of the potential difficulties that the Bianco family might face, the family doctor, who was also Mussolini’s cardiologist, offered to help. During a routine appointment with the dictator, he began: «Bianco’s wife is dead».

«I know », answered the Duce. His tone was cold, but not unfriendly. The physician risked: «He wants three passports, for him and his two children.»

Again, a deep silence filled the room. Then Mussolini firmly replied: «Tell him to fill in the papers and I will authorize the issuing of their passports. »

Thus, in the year of 1937, conducted by the forces of destiny, Enrico Bianco arrived in Rio de Janeiro with his father and sister, and settled for good in Brazil. Months after his arrival, an encounter would change his life forever.


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