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Modigliani’s Son Found in Small Village Serving As Parish Priest

April 22, 1981
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— The long-lost son of Jewish painter Amadeo Modigliani has been found in a small village near Paris where he serves as the local parish priest. Father Gerard Thiroux-Villette, 64, told a French newspaper that he had known since he was 13 years old that he was the son of the world famous artist who many critics describe as the greatest painter of the 20th Century. The painter’s son was “discovered” by Le Journal de Dimanche as a retrospective exhibition of Modigliani’s major works opened at the Pompidou Center.

Modigliani, at his death in 1920, left two infant children: a two-year-old daughter, Janine, and a four-month old son, Gerard. After the painter died, his brother, Emmanuel, come from Livorno (Leghorn), Italy to look for the children. Janine was found and taken to Livorno where she was formally adopted by the painter’s sister who gave her the family name.

The boy disappeared and only art historians knew of his presumed existence. Yesterday he said that his mother, who was an art student and 20 years old at the time of his birth, first left him with foster parents who gave him the name of Villette. Later she cared for him herself. He said he has never been in touch with his father’s family and does not intend to do so now. Thiroux-Villette said he wants to be forgotten by the outside world and added that the only time he revealed his father’s identity was when he joined a Catholic seminary 44 years ago.

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