1946-1958 · The myth of the father and the origin of the dream

In these years little Santacroce happily lived his being an expression of maternal love and his role as a toy for his elder sibs. He began to know and to love the heroic figure of his father, who devoted all his strength to the defence of the rights of farmers and with him little Antonio was to appear in the official photo on the day of the assignment of the lands of the Noto latifundia. That was a day of great joy for his father and for the farmers, extremely special for the only child admitted to the party of the men for the land conquered, and was also to be the day of the discovery and loss of a fascinating treasure, to recover which there started to form in the future painter’s mind the dream of future archaeological trips. The photographer took the official photo, then everyone got busy with the party, and nobody noticed the child wandering off: the carob, the theatre of his games, attracted him; the big trunk split at the base hid something beautiful, mysterious and magic; the calls of his father and the others broke the enchantment, and he returned frightened towards the party, preserving the secret. Only later in the village was he to tell his companions what had happened, but he was never again to succeed in indicating or finding that miraculous place. “I was six years old, when one morning I was woken at dawn to go with my father because there was something important and nice to do. A carriage came to get us to take us down towards the road that goes to Noto. It was an impressive show of carts all in a line waiting for us. My father was radiant, satisfied, he held my hand and from time to time squeezed it hard in his. We got near Noto. Waiting for us there were two elegant men with white shirts and dark suits on. A farmer called ‘Tanu Cavaddu’ took me in his arms and everyone, perhaps a hundred or more people, got like a wall at the end of a field of wheat. In front of us in the distance there was a photographer bent behind a camera with a black cloth. It was the assignment of the lands! After a while I felt the need to go away and ran towards an old carob that had a big split at the bottom covered with hay. Under that hay there was something that since then I have always called ‘magic stones’. “It was crocks of Greek and medieval ceramics, pieces of ancient glass and some remains of statuettes in terracotta. Two excited me most of all: a piece of blue-green glass and a little piece of Arab ceramics that I thought was the colour of crickets.” Antonio was also to be fascinated by the sketches with which his father illustrated his political satire writings, portraits drawn from memory and the numerous sketches taken from the stories of the Paladins of France and the ones discovered in his travel albums. Later he was to discover that his father attended the “open” shop of “Don Giuorgi u pitturi”, a renowned local cart painter. From these years there are indelible memoirs of boundless fields of green or ripe wheat, modelled by the wind; spellbound times, spent listening to the Sicilian tales told by his mother. In July 1958 his father died, and Santacroce’s happy infancy died too. He had only two desires: to have his father back alive and to enrol at an art school.