This Friday, December 2nd, I’ll be unveiling the fully-restored “Song of Pulcinella” painting. It’s a gorgeous work by local artist, Vranas, and his hand was essential in repairing it after it was ripped down, wall and all, from the recently-closed Pulcinella Restaurant. (Thanks also to local handyman, Sean O’Donnell.)
The event will also be the Grand Opening of Emerald Tablet, a sweet new gallery and artist workshop in North Beach. Stop by between 6pm and 11pm to view the painting, and to meet the folks at Emerald Tablet as well as tons of other local characters. Free wine and food will be served.
3 weeks to the day since the heavily damaged North Beach Song of Pulcinella mural was rescued from the dumpster and he’s back in his all his glory.
Today we gathered at Emerald Tablet where the artist Vranas restored his mural. We had to position the really heavy mural so that handyman Sean O’Donnell could trim off the excess and put on its new frame.
Oh no, a small piece of the bottom border popped off as we started to move the really heavy mural. I panicked but Vranas assured me that the border will pop right back into place. He’ll lightly touch it up after the frame is on. Whew, tragedy avoided. Vranas and Sean made a couple of design changes and Sean’s framing work got a whole lot easier.
Now that the restoration work is complete, Song of Pulcinella will be under wraps until its Second Unveiling on December 2. I can’t wait for the cloth to drop.
Song of Pulcinella carries some battle scars but I think the mural is back as beautiful as ever. Stop by Emerald Gallery after December 2 and let me know what you think.
We’re still searching for Pulcinella’s permanent home. Any thoughts about a public North Beach indoor space where Song of Pulcinella can be enjoyed by all?
It’s just been 2 weeks since we saved the severely damaged Song of Pulcinella mural and rolled it across Columbus Avenue to a safe haven. It’s been a week since I brought the San Francesco statue to Emerald Tablet gallery to oversee the restoration.
The muralist Vranas was worried about the seam where the 2 big pieces were joined together. Sean O’Donnell had lined it up perfectly and Vranas repainted the vertical rip beautifully.
Vranas will finish the last shattered corner today. It may be the toughest section to conquer. Thank you San Francesco, Song of Pulcinella is almost back.
Leah Garchik picked up the restoration story in her Friday Chronicle column. Scroll down Friday’s column to find it.
Thanks to Andre Hunt for his video of Vranas working on that last corner.
Saturday was a day of truth. Could North Beach handyman Sean O’Donnell put the mural pieces back together again? I really wasn’t sure.
The muralist Vranas and I joined Della and Lapo at their Emerald Tablet art workshop and gallery to help Sean lift the heavy mural onto his operating table.
We placed the mural side down so Sean could work on the backside. He had to remove the drywall from the studs. Then he had to align the two pieces so that the image on the other side lined up perfectly. “If the seam doesn’t match perfectly I may not be able to repaint it,” Vranas warned.
Sean has to work blind. Fine measurements were checked, Sean reached underneath to feel the seam. “How is he going to be able to do this?” I thought. “He can’t see the face of the mural.”
I ran across the street to the gift shop at the National Shrine of St. Francis. Pulcinella was with us but we needed more firepower. I bought a statue of Assisi of St. Francis in an “illumination” pose and put him facing the mural on the table where the mural fragments were laid. Maybe he will help enhance Sean’s perception.
When we all gathered on Sunday I was taken aback as I entered the back gallery. Sean’s expert repair looked beautiful to me. “Your a genius,” I told him. “You put it all back together again!” We agreed on a plan to flip the mural. The moment of truth had arrived. Will all the pieces be properly aligned?
Oh my God it worked! The mural is back in one piece. Della and Sean meticulously checked the seam where the circular saw ripped the mural in two. This was a critical area. If the two pieces weren’t perfectly joined the restoration might be doomed.
Vranas walked the mural, stopping here, running a finger over the surface there. “It’s a miracle, everything fits perfectly,” he exclaimed. “Thank you St. Francis,” I mumbled to myself. I still don’t believe that Sean was able to accomplish this feat. “Bravo,” we all yelled in unison. Now the restoration of the mural could start. Sean packed up his tools and turned the project over to Vranas and Della.
“You like puzzles?” Vranas asked as I stood over him. He and Della were gluing the small fragments into place. Once the adhesive cured they would carefully join them to the mural.
There was a void in the upper corner that Della filled with plaster. The large corner fragment and a hang-nail piece flapping freely on loose webbing could both be attached. This is the last marriage for today. We’ll let everything cure for 24-hours. When we come back on Tuesday Vranas and Della will attach the rest of the fragments and fill the remaining voids.
Vranas will bring his paints and if possible he’ll start repainting the parts that we glued in place today. I can’t wait.
I checked in with Della and Lapo at Emerald Tablet Sunday morning. They’ve been instrumental in crafting our Song of Pulcinella mural restoration plan. We started to get our heads around the project. We need a carpenter. We need to talk to Vranas, the artist who created the mural. We need to get the restoration done quickly on a near zero budget.
I’ve met Vranas in North Beach caffes over the years, but I didn’t really know him. He’s lived in the Village, on and off, for decades. North Beach is home to four Vranas murals – the incredibly detailed Roman Forum at Viva, the Greek farm scene above Nature Stop’s produce case, the life-size portraits of great Irish writers at O’Reilly’s and the newest one, the one we almost lost – The Song of Pulcinella.
Sunday night we met at the gallery. Vranas saw his wrecked mural for the first time. He cried when he told me he was surprised anyone would try to save it. We’ve lost a lot of North Beach over the years. I didn’t want to add Vranas’ mural celebrating Napoli to the list of things that once were.
Vranas said the mural could be made whole again. When I left hours later I was energized. Out of respect for one of North Beach’s great artists, Song of Pulcinella has to be put back together and hung in a place of honor for all to enjoy.
Next, I called North Beach handyman, Sean O’Donnell. I told him my story and asked if he could help. “I know Vranas. I’ll meet you at the gallery tonight. We’ll see.”
Vranas and Sean inspected the mural and explored options for putting it all back together. Vranas talked about imagining the work and how he created it. (Google Earth inspired the city part of the mural.) “Be careful with this raised edge” he warned Sean, “or we lose the trompe l’oeil.”
Restoration ideas filled the gallery. A plan was emerging. No power tools, so the studs may stay. Plywood backing to stabilize the drywall. The two big pieces reunited from behind and the fragments re-attached. Plaster to fill the gaps. We all agreed. Easy, huh? We’ve got two weeks to get the restoration done. I think this North Beach gang just might have a shot at it. Pulcinella is watching, you know.
Sean will start work on the mural Saturday. We’ll all be there. Stop by and say hello.
“Mean, vicious, and crafty, his main mode of defense is to pretend to be too stupid to know what’s going on, and his secondary mode is to physically beat people.” – Wikipedia entry for Pulcinella
A new mural was going up last year at the North Beach pizzeria and ristorante, Pulcinella. I stopped by once in a while to check on the muralist, Vranas’, emerging homage to Napoli, “Song of Pulcinella.” Pulcinella is the 17th century commedia d’arte character adopted by Neapolitans as their own.
I remember the night we sat under the just completed mural featuring the ancient city and a smoking Vesuvio on the Bay of Naples, eating a great dinner. Neapolitan songs were in the air, mandolin strains drifted from the trio right in front of us. I glanced up and there he was – Pulcinella in all his glory beaming down at me.
When I learned the pizzeria was closing I emailed Mauro Caputo who was overseeing the close-out of the space to find a way to save the mural. It was too late.
I got Mauro’s response the next morning: “Ciao Gianni, unfortunately I just read your email, the mural is already on the floor, we took it off this morning early. Buona Giornata.” Oh no! I rushed up to Pulcinella right after work.
Here’s what I found when I arrived. The whole back wall which the mural had been painted on had been cut out with a circular saw. The mural was in two large sections and there were pieces missing. Mauro and I scoured the floor to find more chunks of the mural. We matched a corner here a border there like making a jigsaw puzzle.
The landlord wouldn’t let us leave the mural there. We had to get it out in 24 hours. What can I do with a 15×6 foot piece of wall, studs and all, weighing a few hundred pounds? The clock was ticking and I didn’t have a clue. I wasn’t even sure we could put all the pieces back together.
I hit the sidewalk. I was on a mission. I saw Howard, a North Beach artist, on the corner. I told him my story and asked him to come with me to view the mural. He said the mural could be saved and it should be saved for all to enjoy. I said I had a place in the Mission where I could temporarily store the mural.
“No, keep the mural in North Beach. It will be easier to restore here,” he said. Now I needed a plan.
Howard suggested some places where I might move the pieces while we figure out how to restore it. I stopped at a dozen places. It was an Open Studios weekend and there was no room anywhere. People were talking about the fate of the mural as I walked the Village looking for temporary shelter. One more place to try on the edge of the Village. I introduced myself to Della and Lapo at the busy Emerald Tablet, a new North Beach art workshop/gallery and explained my plight. My new allies told me I could bring the pieces there for a few days as I worked out a restoration plan.
Yipee! But how do we get the mural pieces to the gallery? It was only a few blocks away. We can roll it there I thought. I searched the Village for a furniture dolly. John at Focus Gallery on upper Grant had one that I could use.
One of the hottest days of the year and I have to push a wall 3 blocks with hills and balance it on this tiny dolly so it doesn’t tip and smash on the sidewalk. We slowly made our way. Traffic had to stop for us it took so long to make it across Columbus Avenue. Sweaty, dirty, thirsty we finally set the mural pieces in the back of the gallery space.
“Song of Pulcinella” is not smashed in a dumpster. The mural is safe for now. We saved it with 18 hours to spare thanks to my North Beach friends and neighbors. Sometimes it does take a village. And thank you for your help too, Pulcinella!
I’ll keep you posted on the restoration. Hopefully the mural will be installed somewhere in North Beach for all to enjoy. Any thoughts on where it should live?