Guiseppe Greco and Marcella Risciglione married in Paterno, Sicily, in 1969. The 21-year-old groom was an auto mechanic, the bride a sixth-grade student. She was 12. Somehow convinced that their parents would never agree to their marriage, the couple slipped away from home and spent two nights together, knowing that an unwritten Sicilian Code of Honor would leave their parents with no choice but to let them marry. Which they did.
Marcella’s father had the last word however. He grounded the newlyweds, not allowing them to go on a honeymoon. “She will go back to school and he to work on Monday,” said the father. And they will lose all Facebook privileges when it is invented.
A couple of centuries earlier, a poor young lad about Guiseppe’s age was walking down a London street, gazing into shops and lamenting his own poverty. His fancy was taken by a portrait in one of the shop windows and he wondered to himself if he too might paint such portraits and perhaps earn a farthing or two. (This was long before the days of ‘draw me three inches tall’ on matchbook covers.) He hurried home, scraped together brushes, paints and a bit of a broken looking glass and set about painting a small portrait of himself.. He was quite pleased with the result, and others evidently were as well, since he began to get gigs painting miniatures. Success followed and he eventually was called on to paint various VIPs including King George III.
One day when the poor King was too far gone in his mental malady to sit for portrait painters, our now thriving artist drew a quick portrait of the King on his own thumb nail. He later meticulously transferred the portrait to ivory. The portrait delighted the King who paid the artist a hundred guineas for it.
The artist was Robert Bowyer, a name that rings precious few bells in the art world today. When he is thought of at all, it is in relation to the profession of his later years as a printer and in particular as the printer of an edition of the Bible that came to bear his name — an elaborate and costly work of 45 volumes with over 600 engravings.