At The Frick Collection in New York City
Such a small work by Giambattista Tiepolo, Perseus and Andromeda
(ca. 1730-31), was actually a study for a Milan ceiling fresco—
the palace was bombed into rubble during the Second World War.
The Allies didn’t intend to destroy one of Italy’s great treasures,
a wedding gift, which now exists in black-and-white photos—
and this small study in the Frick collection, Perseus and Andromeda .
That can’t be said of all raids—in 1936-37, in Italian movie theaters
audiences cheered watching the dictator’s pilot-son, Bruno,
dropping gas bombs on villages in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War.
Or Vonnegut’s Dresden—or John Hersey’s account in Hiroshima
of people vaporizing and leaving behind permanent shadows—
like a kid’s backpack, the size of this study, Perseus and Andromeda.
In 1945 Milan, women squat to piss into the mouth of the dictator—
who was then hung upside down with his mistress—there are photos—
the Duce’s end terrified Hitler in his bunker at the end of the war.
But here, in this celebration of love, Perseus slays the sea-monster
and flies off with Andromeda—cheered on by cupids as they go—
such a small work by Giambattista Tiepolo, Perseus and Andromeda,
a study for a palace bombed into rubble in the Second World War.