If you traveled to the Ducal Palace in Mantua, Italy, you'd probably head for the famous Camera degli Sposi ("Bridal chamber"). Andrea Mantegna painted this room with frescoes during the years 1465 - 1474. There is a lot to see there. You couldn't be blamed if you miss this laid-back fellow: he's parked under Ludovico Gonzaga's chair, at the left of the "Court Scene". I find it touching that even as powerful a man as Gonzaga approved the portayal of his dog, happy, sleepy, and on a dog bed quite as luxuriant as the cushions on the Duke's own seat.
For the record, I haven't been to Mantua yet to see this myself. And what's this all got to do with 9/11? You see, my husband and I were in Italy when 9/11 happened. For days we sat watching commentary in a language we couldn't follow. We had no idea how or when we would get home, or how bad it might really get. What we did know was that the Italian people were friends to Americans, and that we were safe there. We know this because everywhere we went they told us so. The outpouring of Italian support for the American people was immediate and sincere: the two countries have been tight for generations - I'm part Italian myself, courtesy of a great-grandpa.
So when I came to talk about 9/11 today, I spotted this detail from one of Italy's thousands of masterworks, and it encapsulated everything I remember about our hosts at that terrible time. The machinations of the world swirled around us, but we were kept sheltered and safe, in a culture of beauty and thoughtfulness.
We came home to a changed world, but my gratitude to the Italian people has never changed.