He drew on his large block with a very sure hand and never corrected the lines which he had made so hastily: with a few strokes he had finished a portrait.
I shall never forget the first portrait sitting I did for him. Gradually my timidity and bashfulness disappeared. I can still see him standing before me now with his short sleeves and his tousled hair as he attempted to capture my features on the canvas. From time to time he would reach out for a bottle and I soon noticed the effect that the alcohol had on him: he became so involved in his work that he forgot that I existed, having eyes only for his work. In fact, he was so engrossed and preoccupied with himself that he started speaking Italian to me! He painted with such passion and fervour that the picture fell from the easel on to his head when he bent forward to try to view it from close up. This startled me. He was sorry to have frightened me and so smiled at me gently and began singing Italian songs to make me forget the incident.
Modigliani became transformed, as it were, before his model: he strained feverishly to fathom his sitter's character so that he could then reproduce it on canvas. As a sitter you had the impression that your soul was being dissected, and you had the strange feeling that you were unable to hide your innermost feelings.
As I was preparing the meal he asked me to raise my head a little, and by the light of the candle he did a very nice drawing of me under which he wrote the following dedication: 'La Vita ~ un Dono: dei pochi ai molti: di Coloro cbe Sanno e cbe banno a Coloro che non Sanno e cbe non banno!' (Life is a Gift: from the few to the many; from Those who Know and have to Those who do not Know and have not.)
From: Ambrogio Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani, peintre, p.27ff,43ff