The Borgias

Just back from taking some of our art & film patrons on tour through the South of Italy & as always, I still can’t get enough of Italian history, culture, politics, etc., even while I am starting to plan next year’s tour.

My art & film lectures this month here at the Library focus on Italian heavy hitters (Art : da Vinci, & Donatello this Wednesday, Oct 17 at 6 pm & 7 pm respectively; Verrocchio oct 24 at 7 pm; & contemporary Italian artists oct 31 at 7 pm; & film: The comedy Buon Giorno, Papà, starting heartthrob Raoul Bova at 7 pm on October 19, & master comedic storyteller Leonardo Pieraccioni’s Al Paradisdo all’improvviso October 26 at 7 pm) and my reading is the perfect companion to this month’s lectures.

The Borgias, by G.J. Meyer ( who wrote an incredible compendium on the Tudors), takes us through the Borgia dynasty & political tumult, upheaval & intrigue of over 240-odd years leading into and through the Renaissance that propelled them into power.

Meyer brings the individuals to life in compelling detail, emphasizing the dangers of various political threats throughout Europe and the Middle East, while also explaining the nuances of diplomatic relations & royal egos at a time when 5 months was considered lightning speed to get a military action in place, and Twitter was just what the birds did.

(Heavenly Bodies @the Met; photo Val Franco, c, October 2018)

As a companion to the Metropolitan Museum’s recent Heavenly Bodies exhibit on fashion from design powerhouses of the 20th & 21st Century & religious artifacts from the Catholic Church, this book also serves to illuminate a segment of the far reaching influence the church held in Renaissance Europe.

Note: Congratulations to the Friends of the North Castle Public Library for the completion of the 58th Annual Armonk Outdoor Art Show in September. All of their amazing volunteer work to mount this incredible juried art show comes back around to support the great art, film and music offerings presented at the library, as well as children’s programming, guest lectures & series. Because of their generosity & hard work, most of these offerings ( like the Wednesday art lecture series & Friday film series) are open & offered free to the public.


Provenance : Author talk tonight at 7 pm : Exploring Art’s Great Con Artists

Some books look at art as a luxury, others look at art from an historical perspective and still others look at art from the down and dirty criminal side. Laney Salisbery’s book PROVENANCE, looks art & the art world from all these different angles as she explores one of the greatest and most elaborate cons ever perpetrated in the art world by con artist John Drewe & forget John Myatt.

Tonight, May 16, I will interview journalist and author Laney Salisbury on her novel, PROVENANCE, and the brilliant but twisted mind of international con artist John Drewe. Join us for a galvanizing talk as we look at this intriguing criminal, and the passionate art experts around the globe who had the tenacity to challenge the art market & bring him down. Free & open to the public.

Film weekend at Whipoorwill Hall:

Leonora Carrington

The next several days will keep you quite busy here at the library, with free film screenings this Friday evening , March 9, at 7 pm; Sunday afternoon, March 11 at 1 pm; and free art lectures this coming Wednesday evening, March 14 at 6 & 7 pm

Wednesday, March 14, the art lecture on the intriguing artist Leanora Carrington will start at 6 pm, to be followed at 7 pm by our scheduled class on photographer Margaret Bourke-White. 

As a bonus, we will also take another look at Columbian artist Fernando Botero between sessions.


(Pictures above: Operation Wednesday, 1969, tempera on masonite, by surrealist painter, Leonora Carrington)

I wanted to highlight several interesting female artists and issues this month of March, Women’s History Month, hence the choice of artists Carrington, Bourke-White & Lavatelli, as well as this month’s films.

One of the interesting things about Carrington was her surrealist style & her refusal to paint for the art market, instead choosing to paint for herself, regardless of whether her work would sell or not.

Born in Lancashire in 1917, Carrington’s life was quite tumultuous, including her heart-breaking relationship with artist Max Ernst and resulting mental breakdown and hospitalization.

Like numerous artists before her, her work, highly personal and symbolic, was central to her sanity & integrity. She wrote about her hospitalization in her book, DOWN BELOW, which was quite controversial at the time of its publication for its indictment of the brutal treatment she received as part of her “care and rehabilitation”.

( it is available through the Westchester library system if you are interested in seeing how Carrington wrote about her confinement).

One of the last active Surrealist painters, Carrington died in Mexico City in 2012 after a life that took her from England to France, Spain, Portugal, the US and finally Mexico, where she was quite politically active.

A strong-willed and passionate person, Leonora was instrumental in founding the Women’s Liberation Movement and did not shy away from the direction her beliefs took her.

During class, I will discuss comparisons between her work and life, and that of other artists and contemporaries including Pollack, Claudel, Kahlo, Eluard, Miller and Ernst.

(Above: Messen, Ernst, Carrington, & Eluard as captured by photographer Lee Miller; Lee Miller Archive)

NOTE: Miller, a fashion model for Vogue, collaborated with and served as the artistic muse for Man Ray. A Surrealist artist in her own right, she also reported on the London Blitz and the Second World War. I will be discussing her work at greater length in April.

I look forward to seeing you next week for an overview of the incredible Leonora Cartington, and her unbelievable personal & artistic journey.

As a reminder- this Friday night, March 9, the film screening of The September Issue,  the documentary on Anna Wintour & the making of fashion mag powerhouse Vogue, is scheduled for a 7 pm start. 

Also, please join us this coming Sunday afternoon for the rescheduled screening of the classic Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn film FUNNY FACE. The movie will screen with an intro Sunday afternoon, March 11, at 1 pm in Whipoorwill Hall.

The following week’s schedule, barring any new storms, hurricanes, floods, plagues, or earthquakes, is as follows:

Wednesday, March 14 – Art- Women’s history month continues with a look at Margaret Bourke-White and thought-provoking images from this internationally respected photographer/artist.

Friday, March 16- film – The Devil Wears Prada- Starring Meryl Streep & Anne Hathaway, this bitingly funny look at what it takes to make it in the high-pressured world of fashion is based on the book of the same name, & the author’s experiences working under Anna Wintour.

Looking forward to seeing you at any or all of the great art and film programs I’ve curated for us this spring!



Valentine’s Day at the Library- no RSVP needed!!!

Come join us for Valentine’s Day art history classes at the North Castle Piblic Library- no reservations needed!!!

We’re covering Georgia Okeefe at 6 o’clock & Amadeo Modigliani at 7.

Little snack will be served!


Free French comedy tonight!

Free tench film

Join us tonight for a free screening of the French political comedy, THE FRENCH MINISTER.

The film, with English subtitles, is about a young writer who gets a job crafting speeches in one of the most dangerous environments in the world: the upper echelons of French politics…A place where nobody wants to get left behind, but nobody wants to admit to being left or right. This is a place where one wrong word can get you fired.

This intriguing comedy is a very timely one indeed. See you at 7 pm in Whipoorwill Hall.

Jan 14- Sunday afternoon at the movies!

Join us at 1 pm in Whipoorwill Hall for a free screening of the classic musical THE BAND WAGON!!!!

A must see for everyone, THE BAND WAGON is consistently rated one of the top 50 films of American cinema! With lush color, memorable songs that are part of the Great American Songbook, gorgeous dancing by Fred Astaire & Cyd Charisse, this funny film is a hot way to spend to a cold afternoon.

Of Snow & Art forgery: read & watch


I hope you were all staying warm this snowy Thursday, and then if you are out shoveling snow you go easy listen to your body and don’t over exert yourself.

 That said, whether you need something to do as your recover in between rounds of shoveling or if you’re not going out at all and are just staying in and reading and watching some telly, consider watching an episode of LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT (season 1, episode 2 -ART) about art forgery, the art market, & art verification, top name sales to small museums at prices to good to be true… all subjects we’ve discussed in the past few semesters. 

So if you want a guilty pleasure that combines your knowledge of forgers Beltracchi, Ken Perenyi and Mark Landis with various forms of art authentication using paint analysis from my Wednesday night art classes, and news stories about Helly Nahmad galleries (art market collision law suits & legal disputes over ownership of art collections stolen from Holocaust victims) and Steve Martin’s bargain basement Campendonk art forgery, this is your episode. You can also catch it in Hulu & Netflix.

For more on this topic, check out my post Snowy Guilty Pleasures at ProfValFranco.Wordpress.comBeltracchi was the major inspiration for this episode so of course, it’s always interesting to to go back to the source & watch the Beltracchi documentary if forgeries fascinate you. 

In addition, there are some great books you can take out from the library, including Caveat Emptor by Ken Perenyi, a guest speaker at my Wednesday Art class a year or so ago.

Hopefully no one loses power or has an snow related problems.

Remember : This Friday’s January 5th free screening of one of the best musicals of the 20th Century, THE BAND WAGON has been rescheduled due to safety concerns regarding the extreme weather & frigid temperatures.

The film will screen Sunday, January 14, at 1 PM in the Event Room st the Library. We hope to see you there.

 Have a wonderful snow day.