Monday, May 2, 2011

Fade to Pale

I first ventured to Rome in the waning days of the 1970's.  The city then was awash with a riot of warm colors. The burnt oranges and ochres, rich and worn, glowed and amplified the late afternoon sun until it seemed that for a few magical moments before sunset, heaven and earth were ablaze in tandem. The maze of medieval streets in the centro storico flowed like liquid amber pouring into renaissance piazzas.  But even then I noticed that change was afoot.  The backround beat of the chip chip chip of cold steel chiseling against soft stucco and hard stone that makes up the baso continuo of the city was slowly peeling away the color and replacing it with a different historical palette.  The renaissance palazzos were being re-invisioned with a more correct color scheme.  Creams, soft whites and even limestone blues were thrusting themselves into the streetscape.

The pace has quickened in the past few years as the City continues its relentless shift from warm to cool.  Color, which once stitched together the City is now defining and seperating the social strata.  Palazzi and cheisi increasingly boast the new renaissance hues, the medieval jumble for the most part sits in begnine neglect, plaster more often than not crumbling to expose the brick and rubble construction.  The massive number of 19th century buildings which sprung into existence when the City was recreated as the capital of a unified Italy, along with the monumental public works executed to define the City as such, linger in a chromatic no-man's land.  Too young to qualify for the renaissance option, but not wanting to remain old school, a variety of solutions have developed.  Pale has become the new saturated color.  And even worse, pastel.   

Sometimes a cheap version of sponge painting popular in suburban McMansions of the late 1980's is applied to disguise that momentary regret and sense that something has been lost as the past is scraped away from these edifices and they lurch into the future.

Every once in awhile, though, you will find that rare Palazzetto, which like Miss Havisham's, proudly wears the remains of a fully saturated red ochre as a badge of honor from some ancienne regime.

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