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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Arch of Drusus

The Arch in Context

I went back to the Arch of Drusus (so-called, but it’s hard to imagine it being later than the Aurelianic gate just within which it’s situated) a couple of weekends ago to paint the same subject I’d drawn (see my previous post). I worked in the morning, within about a two hour window of time. With that constraint of Valenciennes’ you must decide what you can capture, and what you can’t. I’m interested in the overall form, some sense of texture, light and shadow of course, and context. I’m also interested in the subject for what it tells us about how the Romans understood what a triumphal arch was. I’m especially interested in the use of the orders (an innovation essentially of the Augustan age, when the former simple fornix—a deep arch or vault—accrued the classical orders and changed its designation to arcus). Here the columns en ressaut frame a pediment grafted on to the arch proper, not spanning from column to column. While the pediment situation is unusual (but not unknown) the en ressaut columns are effectively normative for most Roman arches. That’s partly the subject of my summer research, but here talking about plein air I’ll let the painting process speak for itself. You'll note I worked, as always, on a toned ground.

Arco di Druso, oil on canvas board, 25x35cm

Friday, June 17, 2016

Outside and Inside the Walls of Rome

Arco di Druso, via S. Sebastiano, morning
Finding Historic Plein Air Landscapes in the Eternal City

As I said here a while back, Rome has changed a lot since it became the capital of a unified Italy in 1871. Which makes painting en plein air a challenge if you’re looking for the landscape of Corot. This summer I find myself lodging just outside the Porta Latina in a twentieth-century neighborhood that, urbanistically speaking, would win a CNU award if it were built today. 

S. Giovanni in Oleo, via Latina, morning
Circus of Maxentius along the Appia Antica
Now, that’s not exactly an endorsement from my point of view: while the neighborhood has all the requisite services that the centro storico has mostly lost, it can’t hold a candle architecturally to the inhabited Rome of the Nolli map. But, it has two great advantages: one, the roads leading in from the Porta Latina and Porta S. Sebastiano are some of the most beautiful, because mostly untouched, stretches of Roma disabitata that exist; and the road leading out of Porta S. Sebastiano becomes the via Appia Antica, in its less trafficked stretches a miracle of picturesque ruins and countryside.

Balancing research in libraries with drawing in the field, I’ve started by disciplining my observation. First I intend to work on Magnani’s Annigoni™ medium toned paper, drawing in graphite then modeled in white and black gouache; for my first drawing, the tomb of Cecilia Metella on the Appia, I couldn’t resist capturing the blue Roman sky. But for the second, of the Arco di Druso (so-called; a focus of my research), I stuck with black and white on the warm grey paper; that’s the discipline I intend to sustain before I tackle color in oil.

As I produce more I’ll post them and describe some of my thematic agenda for the summer.

Cecilia Metella

Arco di Druso