We all have seen it, a painting of a crying (gypsy) boy. The late nineties saw a revival or at least trend of over the top kitsch and pre-gangster rap bling with religious statuettes, Alpine landscape pictures with backlighting, knitted bed spreads with gold and rose ornamented applications, fake gold chandeliers shaped like cherubs and to top it all, a picture of a gypsy woman or a crying boy.
There are several different paintings around of crying boys. Pretty much reproductions only, printed on hardboard and put in a simple wooden frame. The most common ones are portraits of boys with a morose expression and mostly a single tear running down their cheek. Often looking straight into the eyes of whoever is looking at the painting. There is no certainty that these boys were Gypsy children, but they are often linked to Romani Gypsies.
The creator of this much disputed series of art was Italian painter Bruno Amadio(1911-1981), popularly known as Bragolin. Bragolin was a painter by trade and profession. Reportedly he produced the paintings in Spain after the war, selling the originals and reproductions to tourists in Venice to make a bit of extra cash. He likely sold several thousands and many more reproductions were made from the originals. This means that the boys can be found in pretty much all corners of the world, adding to the mystery of the creator. A group of fanatic fans and art enthusiasts tracked him don in the 1979 and found him to be alive and well-to-do and still painting in the city of Padova.
The crying boys are the lead in a notorious urban legend. Bragolin was an enthusiastic fascist and socialist and made a lot of money in the 1930 painting propaganda images. He reportedly fled to Spain in the 1940’s. It was here where he first realized the commercial value of grieving children. He found his models in a local orphanage and painted around 27 different boys. Legend has it that the orphanage burned down and all 27 boys lost their lives in the fire. Their saddened souls lived on in the images of their mortal appearances. In the 1980’s, again, this is according to legend, England was shocked by a sudden increase in domestic fires. Often, the only thing surviving the flames was a painting of one of Bragolin’s crying boys. In other cases, owners would get ill, victims of bankruptcy, floods or whatever bad luck one can encounter. In Spain they even did a series of TV shows where people would demonstrate recordings of their copies sobbing and crying for their mothers often enough with drops of water dripping down the painting.
With this in mind, I might consider myself a bit of a danger seeker. Just a few weeks ago, on an evening stroll with my dog Lola, I stumbled across one of Bragolin’s boys put outside with the trash a few streets down, to be picked up the next day. Well chuffed with such a great find, I took it home, cleaned it and put it up in my upstairs loo.
I am expecting nothing, but often, at night, I hear a faint muffled cry of what seems to be a Spanish kid calling out that I forgot to flush, again.