The Italian Almanac

detail of a bronze portal

Italian News - April 26

Art patrons throughout the centuries have often indulged in having their portraits put in larger works, but an Italian mayor is the first present-day official to have himself sculpted with the saints. Vanity got the better of mayor Fedele Melas when a local artist asked to portray him in bronze on church doors in the village of San Gavino, on the Italian isle of Sardinia.

Melas is easy to spot in the tableau gracing the outside of Santa Chiara church, unveiled to incredulous villagers recently. He's depicted in a modern suit and tie, grinning as he offers a basket of local civraxiu bread and saffron flowers to San Gavino, a third-century Sardinian martyr and protector of the town.

Parish priest Fiorenzo Pau also succumbed to the desire of sculptor Pietro Longu to use "realistic images," since he, too, appears in the doors next to Melas in a bottom corner. Longu maintains that to avoid abstract faces, he chose the only people he knew in the town as models.

There has been a constant line of locals waiting to see this one-of-a-kind portrait, but many stop for a quick jaw-drop without taking in the details. An inscription in Latin on the inside serves to remind future generations about the man in strange clothing. It explains that the city government paid for nearly a third of the bronze doors.