Susan and I were hobbling back after a long day of walking around Rome. We walked along the Via dei Fori Imperiali looking for a bus. I looked right and saw the back of the Roman Senate in the forum right next to the baroque Chiesa di Santi Martina e Luca. The simple brick Senate building (the Curia) next to the elaborate church made a wonderful contrast between ancient Rome and counter-reformation Rome; and the pruned Roman pines made the whole scene much more graphically interesting.
This is the Roman Forum as seen from the tabularium, which is the taller building at the Northern end of the forum. The triumphal arch at the South end of the Forum is the Arch of Titus, which was erected to celebrate the defeat of the Judeans and the looting of Jerusalem. From this view, the mass of the forum is a chaotic confusion of masonry and trees, with only the Arch of Titus clearly seen in the distance.
My aim was to capture the confusion of the middle ground and the clear white shape of the Arch of Titus. The stacked perspective is more like a medieval painting than like a modern one.
This was the view from our window when we used to stay at the Hotel Pantaleone in Rome. The hotel was in a palazzo, but is gone now, and we rent our own apartment. We were on the top floor, in the cornice. If I leaned out the window, I could see the Chiesa de San Andrea delle Valle. It is one of the most spectacular Baroque churches in Rome, and therefore in the world. I think it’s great in the ‘smack you between the eyes’ way that Roman counter-reformation churches were. Looking down at the street, we could see the late afternoon sunlight and the gathering storm.
Trajan’s Column was built in 113 A.D. at the edge of the Roman Forum to commemorate the Emperor Trajan’s victories over the Dacians in what is now Romania and its neighbors. What is so amazing is that it is still there, in the same place, looking much like it did two thousand years ago. It is the model for every memorial column put up ever since. A pope put a statue of Saint Peter on the top in the sixteenth century, but that didn’t have much effect. Susan and I were just returning from lunch in the café at the top of the Vittoriano, when we saw this scene from the front steps. It had rained several times that day and was about to pour again. The dark clouds that were coming out of the East were moving very fast.
The Pincio Park, or the gardens of the Villa Borghese, are the Rome equivalent of New York’s Central Park. We’d often sit in our favorite café in the park to write Rome Secrets or CityTravelBlog. This is the Temple of Diana in the park in the sun, with several picnickers on the lawn in the foreground in dappled shade.
I was interested in capturing the subject in bright light in the background, as it so often is in 18th and 19th century landscapes. The middle ground is alternately sunny and shaded, and the silhouetted tree in the foreground gives the composition depth and drama in a somewhat Japanese way. I often like a tree in the foreground as a way of dividing the canvas and giving drama to an otherwise calm landscape.
This is one of my favorite spots in Rome. For some reason Renaissance Popes loved obelisks. This one is supported by a statue of an elephant by Gianlorenzo Bernini. It is in front of a church called Santa Maria Sopra Minerva – Saint Mary on top of Minerva – because it was built on top of a temple to Minerva. The building behind the elephant is the back of the Pantheon – the temple to all the gods.
In this painting, the subject is already pretty dramatic. The color of the limestone elephant, the sandstone obelisk, the brick Pantheon and the basalt pavement were an exercise in modulating the colors to make them interesting, and tying them together to make the painting cohesive.
The Palatine Hill is adjacent to the Roman Forum and is where the greats of ancient Rome built their palaces. The word palace actually comes from the name of the hill. Now, two thousand years later, it is a honeycomb of rooms in ruins with cave-like holes where the original outside walls were. A few rooms have survived and can be visited to see the wall paintings and the arrangements, but overall it is quite spooky.
The freestanding ruins and the medieval houses that were built out of the salvage are very vertical and very impressive. Susan is peeking over the wall, and a Chinese girl and her boyfriend with droopy trousers are in the foreground.