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The Cover
November 15, 2006

Portrait of Rocco and His Son

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2006;296(19):2291. doi:10.1001/jama.296.19.2291

The Italian painter Renato Guttuso (1912-1987) was born on an island in the Mediterranean, heir to a civilization as ancient as the Phoenicians. At one time or another, the island had been home to Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French, as well as numerous others; all left remnants of their culture. It witnessed countless battles, from those of the Punic wars of Carthage to the world wars of the 20th century, and it was visited by plague, earthquake, and consuming fire; the island is home to the most active volcano in Europe (as well as its tallest). From this rich tapestry came philosophers, scientists, and artists: such lights as Timaeus, Archimedes, Scarlatti, Bellini, Pirandello, di Lampedusa, Guttuso. Guttuso was born in Bagheria, near Palermo, and his imagination was fired by the vivid colors of his native Sicilian countryside and by the epic romances of Norman times. As a boy, he participated in the tradition of decorating donkey carts with folkloric scenes from the Norman romances. Ideologically, it was his father, Gioacchino, to whom Renato was most indebted. By profession a land-surveyor and by persuasion a Socialist, Gioacchino Guttuso fought tirelessly for the land rights of peasants. Renato would take up the same battle, and others as well, with his brush and palette, heart, and hands, and eyes. Declaring himself to be one of them, Guttuso said that Sicilian peasants held the “primary position” in his heart. Their faces, no matter what he did, were always “in front of [his] eyes.”