Fano, Italy and the Fano ClubThe Fano Club is an organization for Browning enthusiasts who have traveled to Fano, Italy, to see Guercino's painting "The Guardian Angel."
The Fano Club was the brainchild of William Lyon Phelps, former professor emeritus of English literature at Yale University and distinguished Browning scholar. Phelps had long been curious to see the painting that inspired Robert Browning to write his poem "The Guardian Angel: A Picture at Fano" (1848). In the poem, Browning wishes that Guercino's angel could come down from the painting and minister to him and in doing so, help him to see the world "as God has made it!" On Easter Day in 1912, Phelps led a small group of travelers to Fano, where they stood before the painting in the little church of San Agostino and formed the Fano Club. Between them, they gathered 75 postcards to mail to America; unfortunately, all of the postcards went down on the Titanic.
For years Phelps carried on a tradition of meeting once a year on May 7 (Browning's birthday), sharing dinner with fellow Fano travelers and then having the youngest member recite the poem, "The Guardian Angel." The Fano Club was passed on to Dr. A. J. Armstrong (founder of the Browning collection at Baylor), then to Mrs. Armstrong, to Dr. Jack W. Herring, and so on through the directors of the Library. In 1982, Mrs. Natalie West established a small endowment in memory of her husband, Joseph V. West, to be used by the Fano Club for the annual dinner and meeting. Dr. West served for many years as director of Institutional Research and Testing at Baylor University. The Fano Club thrives today with over 125 members.
In order to become a member of the Fano Club, one must:
travel to Fano, Italy
see The Guardian Angel painting (L'Angelo Custode, 1640) by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri in the Civic Museum
mail a postcard to the Library from Fano
state on the postcard that you have seen the painting and are requesting membership into the Fano Club (be sure to include your mailing address!)
The benefits of a Fano Club membership!
enjoy a free dinner once a year in Waco, Texas, with other Fano Club members on Robert Browning's birthday (May 7)
reminisce with others about the adventures of finding Fano and the painting
hear the youngest club member read "The Guardian Angel" poem by Browning
Send your card to:
Armstrong Browning Library
One Bear Place #97152
Waco, TX 76798-7152
Note: Fano, a small seaside town on the Adriatic coast of Italy, is not an easy destination but is well worth the effort. It is a three-hour drive from Florence. If traveling by train, be sure to board a local train that stops in the smaller towns; express trains do not stop in Fano! Guercino's painting is housed in the Museo Civico (the City of Fano Archeological Museum and Art Gallery, formerly the Palazzo Malatestiano), which is located in the center of town in Piazza XX Settembre. The museum is generally closed for several hours in the early afternoon, all day on Monday, and for all Italian holidays. It would be a good idea to contact the museum to insure that it will be open when you plan to visit Fano (telephone: 0721/828362).