Il Padrone

40 x 30 cm. Acrylic, mixed media and resin on canvas. £ ENQUIRE.
Gino Bartali
Il Padrone del Giro del Francia - The Master of the Tour de France.

“Good is something you do, not something you talk about. Some medals are pinned to your soul, not to your jacket.”

Italian Gino Bartali’s Tour de France victories (1938 & 48) book ended World War II. He would undoubtedly have accrued many more yellow jerseys during that period. Yet, his nickname of Il Pio (Gino the Pious) best writes his eulogy.

In 1943, German forces took over Bartali’s home town of Florence. At that time, Fiesole, located on a hill overlooking Florence, was the temporary home of the Goldenberg family. “I don’t remember how he and my parents met,” recounted Giorgio Goldenberg, after Bartali and his cousin Armandino Sizzi were found in their apartment one evening, “but one thing I know for certain is that they saved our lives.”

Bartali hid the family in his cellar, until Florence was liberated in 1944. This hitherto unknown act was part of a much larger effort, one that the Italian took to his grave. Evidence shows Bartali saved the lives of over 800 Jews during World War II. Working for the Italian resistance movement, and DELASEM (Delegazione per l’Assistenza degli Emigranti Ebrei), Bartali’s fame would allow him to conduct numerous, lengthy (up to 380 km) ‘training runs’ from Florence to Assisi, and Genoa, directly before the soldiers guarding the roads. Valuable documents, money, and photographs for counterfeit identity papers were concealed within the frame and saddle of his bicycle, and delivered to a convent.

Bartali is to be posthumously honoured with the title “Righteous Among the Nations” - given to non-Jews who risked their lives saving Jews during the Holocaust. From the state of Israel, Gino Bartali will be awarded a medal; a tree planted in his honour in the Garden of the Righteous at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Previous recipients include the German businessman, Oskar Schindler.
All artwork, text and images © James Straffon 2024.