Italy | 7-8 August 1928

Capuchin Church 1928DATE August 7th
PLACE Florence to Rome to Naples
Today was another dreary day on these awful hot trains. We stopped at Rome for dinner, but before we went to get a hair cut & then over to a church [1] where the decorations are made of the skulls of the monks then on to Naples after a rotten dinner, chased up 4 letters. We arrived at Naples about 12:00 & then a ride in private cars to our Hotel Savoy on the bay where we could see Vesuvius [2] in all its fiery glory.

Vesuivus_1929_postcardDATE August 8th
PLACE Naples Amalphi Sorrento
This morning we left for the Amalfi Sorrento drive via Pompeii. We stopped at Pompeii & saw the whole town it was wonderfully interesting. Then on to Amalfi and much dust & heat. Stopping there for lunch then pushing on to Sorrento where we stayed at the Hotel Sirene very good. Took a swim which was marvelous. Then dinner & shopping afterwards.

SorrentoPompeii_1928This home movie footage from 1928 shows scenes from the Amalfi coast and Pompeii Courtesy of the Oklahamo Historical Society. Please lower or turn off the audio here.

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

Capuchin Church[1] The church Vincent visited is Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, or Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins located at Via Veneto in Rome. It’s ossuary, known as the Capuchin Crypt, contains the bones of over 4,000 Capuchin friars, collected between 1528 and 1870, that have been turned into decorative displays in the Baroque and Rococo style. Here’s the Italian website (here).

Vesuvius in 1928[2] In 1928, Vesuvius was still very active (see the news clipping above from 9 August 1928 or download a 1928 British Pathe film here), having last erupted in 1926. While that eruption had been minor, the effects of the early 1906 eruption was still very much evident when Vincent visited the region. This had resulted in the deaths of over 100 people were killed and much damage to the city of Naples, so much so that the 1908 Summer Olympics had to be transferred to London’s White City. The next eruption, also minor, would occur on 6 June, 1929, while a major earthquake on July 23 1930, in the Irpinia region (near Avellino), would result in 1500 people losing their lives.

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.


Italy | 6 August 1928

DATE August 6th 1928
PLACE Florence
Today is our free day & so shopping is the only thing on my brain & practically cleared my list here.

florence_collage_1928EDITOR’S NOTES
This home movie footage of Italy from 1928 is courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society and includes scenes from Florence that Vincent also visited the same year. The clip below highlights the Florence section. Please turn off or lower the audio here.

6_August 1928

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

In 1962, Vincent recorded an audio tour of Italy for Colorslide Tours, a series of records on European travel and art. You can view them, in two parts, here.

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.

Vincent Price on Florence, crying over Del Sarto’s Madonna, and that $25 bronze fountain figure

I Like What I Know (1959)In 1959, Vincent Price recounted his life-long passion for the art world in I Like What I Know. Here are some extracts from Price’s visual autobiography, in which a 48-year-old Price recalls the high point of his 1928 European tour: Florence…

‘Florence! This was to be the high point of the whole tour. Arriving alone at dawn, I’ll never regret or forget. I had a light suitcase, so I decided to walk to the hotel, which was not next to the station for once, but on the Arno itself. Oh, God… what a city. How beautiful, how clean, how shining, how romantic. I walked along, clearing the garlic out of my lungs (1) and letting my eyes feast on the city. Then suddenly I rounded a corner, and there it was… the Duomo, Giotto’s Tower… and the doors… the doors to heaven, surely, Giotto, Ghiberti, Donatello, Brunelleschi – thank you!’

‘I remember that I was indeed alone when, around another corner I came one the great square, the Signoria, the Loggia, and the Uffizi. There, across the way, I saw “David”, gleaming in white marble. I didn’t’ know, or care, that it was a copy. It was Michelangelo’s first hell to me, and I answered back – openmouthed – and then “Perseus”, Cellini’s boy with the Gorgon’s head, and around the base those lovely little nudes.’

‘The hotel people spoke English, and being the first of our tour to arrive, I got a wonderful room with a little balcony – around the corner of which I could see the Arno and across from which I could look into what surely must have been Lorenzo the Magnificient’s home. Of course, it wasn’t. But it was a palace, and so romantic I couldn’t believe my eyes.’

‘What did I want to see first? What did I want to see alone? Through what glorious door would I make my first real entrance into the Renaissance? Should I go say a prayer in the Duomo or go up and survey the whole city from the Piazzale Michelangelo? I suddenly remembered I had a friend in Florence – Andrea del Sarto – dead a good many years but very much alive to me since he first introduced himself in our minister’s house at home through his “Madonna of the Harpies”. Now, where did she live?… The Uffizi!… There I would start my journey; there I would say hello to an old friend and meet some new ones.’

‘Florence!… The Duomo!… The Uffizi!… These words, names, places are exclamation marks in themselves… you have to put dots of wordless wonder after each one. There is noting else to say. The Uffizi!…’

‘Has anyone ever gone through those doors, blasé, disgusted, bored and not been lifted – ‘sent’ – immolated – within a matter of moments? I haven’t been there for twenty seven years, but I’m ‘sent, just remembering it… sent into the greatest world of art, sent back into a civilization of art and excitement that has never had an equal.’

Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo‘First off, in the Uffizi I met a portraitist who let me look, through his eyes, into the eyes of the people of the past: Bronzino. There they are. The Medici, the men, the children, and the beautiful Eleanor of Toledo, in a gown so sumptuous she had herself painted in it – and buried in it. Bronzino is not a deep, psychological portrait painter, but his pictures are true memorials to his sitters. If you want the future to remember what you look like, dig up Bronzino and have him ‘ do’ you!… Hard, crisp, elegant, real – descriptive of his sitters and of his portraits of them.’

‘I was in the flood. I was drowning in the world of art. I was sailing on a shell with Venus. I was a witness to the Holy Family… And then, suddenly, I came upon a room… and there she was. My own personal Madonna.’

Madonna delle Arpie‘I know now that del Sarto was not the greatest painter – far from Browning’s ‘perfect painter’. I know he was soft, overblown… I know that in the lists of greatness, he’s nowhere near the top… but there she was! Oh beautiful, serene, soft-eyed, and glamorous – she’s not the Virgin Mother, not the Woman of Sorrows – she’s the Queen of Goddesses, a woman to worship as a woman. She is beautiful, and she’s in love with all mankind. Especially with me.’

‘Only three things have ever caused me to weep, for beauty’s sake or for art’s sake: the Madonna of Andrea del Sarto, the first time I saw John Gielgud’s play Hamlet in London, and Kirsten Flagstad’s Isolde. I’m always open to let them flood again, but for my tear ducts it’s apparently got to be a special thing to make them flood… and anyway, I hate it. It hurts and makes me embarrassed, even if I’m alone.’

‘And there I was, standing in the Uffizi with a watermelon in my throat and two painful jets of warm salt water spurting out of me eyes. At that moment the whole world could have walked into that gallery, and I wouldn’t have been able to cover up. Then I heard a soft voice, over my shoulder, say: “Come over here, I’ll show you the one that makes me cry.”

‘I blew my nose, blotted my eyes, buried as much of my face as I could in my handkerchief, and blurted out a feeble: “Sorry… something in my eye.” ‘

‘The voice said: “Yes… beauty”.’

‘It belonged to a woman who must have been the mother of my Madonna, a lovely, comfortable, middle-aged Saint Anne. She took me firmly by the arm, led me out of the room and down the hall, and brought me up, still, in front of one of the most beautiful little pictures of all time: the “Annunciation” by Leonardo da Vinci.’

‘”That’s the one that makes me cry,” she said. I looked at it for a long time, and when I turned around to thank her, she was gone. Secretly, I was glad I didn’t have to thank her, but I always will be grateful for the knowledge that someone else could behave juts as cornily as I did.’

Annunciation (Leonardo)

Leonardo da Vinci – Annunciazione (1472–1475)

‘I had saved a small amount with which to buy Mother and Dad a present, and Florence would get that money, my economic chauvinism stemming from gratitude for its being so beautiful. And I was determined to get it on the Ponte Vecchio. I shopped and thought of silver, of leather, of everything sold on that bridge, but nothing really said ‘buy me’. Back and forth I searched and finally found it… a little bronze fountain figure. Twenty five dollars. He was a cutie, holding a fish out of which the water squirted. There are hundreds of figures like this, but I’d never seen them, and somehow I felt sure that the shopkeeper’s information about its being modern was just to spoof me – that this was an original Donatello-Verrocchio, undiscovered until now by me!’

‘I bought it, lugged it to a packer, sent it home via collect freight and sighed with delight that I had found a treasure in Florence and that my parents would have it forever – in the Middle West of America.’

‘They received it in good order. The collect freight was sixty dollars. Then my father was forced into building a pool for it to fountain into. This cost two hundred and fifty dollars. The entire family spent two years, dragging rocks back from the Ozarks, to make the surrounding rock garden. The final blow came when Mother decided to import three hundred and fifty dollars worth of rare bulbs from Holland to set the whole thing off, and as a background two mature willow trees were brought in, employing six workmen for three days. Then I decided, with Mother’s permission, to grow water lilies. What I didn’t know, but soon found out, was that they must be planted in rich, preferably, cow manure – under the water. This murky operation caused the death of twenty-five high priced, fan-tailed goldfish and yearly saw me up to my armpits in fresh cow dung, having spent the two previous days catching the replaced goldfish, who multiplied over the years to a final count of three hundred and two. Some years later, after the death of my parents, I decided I must keep the Florentine fountain. I dislodged it from its Million Dollar Park to send it to California, where once again a pool had to be built for it and flowers planted, and to date only two sad goldfish have survived to revel in the splashing waters.’

(1) Although his mother put garlic in every dish in the Price household, Vincent found the smell of it in his air-tight third class carriage, which he shared that previous day with four Italians munching on a 50 variety sausage meal, too much to bear. According to his diary, he passed out on the fumes.

Italy | 4-5 August 1928

florence_postcard_1928DATE August 4th 1928
PLACE Florence
Hats birthday sees me in Florence at 6.30. I went to the Hotel, which is very nice & then started out to shop. I bought quite a few things & then mainly the fountain which is cute. In the afternoon I went through the Uffizi gallery & saw so many famous pictures that I was lost. The best was Madonna delle Arpie by Del Sarto. Met the party at dinner & then went shopping after also.

florence_postcard_1928cDATE August 5th 1928
PLACE Florence
If you look anyway around you in this city you find something interesting. Today we started out to sightsee we saw the Bapistry & Giotto’s tower then Dante’s House (Restored) and then to the Uffizi & Pitti. Such marvelous pictures I have never seen. Then after lunch in private cars we road to Piazza Michaelangelo & then to Church of the Holy Cross where he is buried along with Micheavelli. This is the Westminster Abbey of Florence. To the Hospital to see the Bambinos & then back to the Cathedral & tower saw famous bronze doors. Then we went to the Medici Chapel & saw Michealango’s famous statues. We saw Cellini’s Perseus & many other famous statues in the porch of the Uffizi. Including the Rape of the Sabines (a very like-like statue).

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

In 1962, Vincent recorded an audio tour of the Pitti Palace for Colorslide, a series on European art galleries and cities. You can view it, in two parts, here.

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.

Italy | 3 August 1928

DATE August 3rd 1928
PLACE Venice
This morning was free so everybody went shopping and at lunch everybody was displaying their wares. I am saving my money for Florence. After lunch we went to Lido & went swimming in the Adriatic. I left at 11.55 for Florence so as to get there ahead of time to buy things for the bunch.


Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

Vincent Price Travel Journal 1928 (reproduced courtesy of Peter Fuller)

Five lire silver coin 1928The lire was the official currency of Italy from 1861 until 1 January 1999. In 1926, Silver five and 10 lire coins were introduced in 1926, while silver 20 lire coins were added in 1927, the same year that the lira was pegged to the US dolllar at a rate of 1 dollar = 19 lire under Mussolini’s controversial Quota 90. This rate lasted until 1934, with a tourist rate being established in 1936. This five lire coin dates from 1928.

[sic] Although Vincent misspells words in his journal, we have kept them as he wrote them.