Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pompeii No.32: Five Good Emperors

The next stage in the decoration of the Pompeii Room is to incorporate the images of five successive Roman emperors. They reigned at the height and might of the empire, during a period of relative tranquility that became known as the time of The Five Good Emperors.

(History buffs and authorities will have to excuse me, since all five reigned after Pompeii was already covered by ash. This will just have to come under the heading of artistic license!)

In fact the Emperor Titus, son of Vespasian, ruled when Pompeii was destroyed. Titus was succeeded by his brother, Emperor Domitian, whose reign was one of terror, at least for everyone in close proximity to him.
Domitian was assassinated, and the Roman Senate, weary of the last several reigns, decided to appoint one of their own, an elderly senator named Nerva, shown above. Nerva was popular within the Roman Senate and a fair and just man by the standards of the day. His surprise ascension might be likened to that of Gerald Ford in our own time.

Nerva (30-98 A.D.) was the first of the Five Good Emperors, and a bas relief bust of him will fit into the niche on the left side of my transom.  |  |
Here you see three busts of Nerva, each one more stylized than the last. We can be certain that Nerva had a cleft chin and a small mouth, and perhaps a rather pinched expression. But determining how he really looked is almost akin to a forensics case.

One thing that has occurred to me is that the center bust appears to use the image of Caesar Augustus as a template. I will use that image, but narrow the head slightly and combine it with the smaller mouths seen in the other two busts.

Here's my version of Nerva. Because of his age (65 was quite advanced by Roman standards) and because he appears to have had a smaller jaw, you will notice that I have given Nerva slightly hollowed cheeks. Next week we'll look at the second of the Five Good Emperors, Trajan. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pompeii No.31: The Transom's Central Panel

In my last posting, I mentioned that I was going to paint my dining room's transom to look like the top of a triumphal arch. The little drawing above illustrates the effect I want to achieve in terms of a wider central panel and two smaller panels.

Here are three Roman triumphal arches, and in each of them you can see that the top's center plaque is equal to the width of the actual arch, plus its adjacent columns (It's interesting that there seems to have been a design rule, but then it's an obvious way to aesthetically divide the space.).

The arches, from top to bottom and in the order they were erected, are the Arch of Titus, Rome, circa 82 A.D.; the Arch of Trajan, Benevento, circa 117 A.D.; and the Arch of Constantine, Rome, 315 A.D.
sources, from top to bottom:  |  |

click to enlarge
For my central panel, I've chosen a bas relief that's filled with Roman symbolism, though it was actually designed for a post office in Hartford, Connecticut. I've made some detail changes to the original design, but they're very minor.

I start out by outlining the design, then paint light medium tones. I then work into the darker tones, and finally add any highlights.

click to enlarge

In my next posting, I'll be filling the left niche, and what I put there will quite possibly be the major theme of the Pompeii Room. I hope you'll join me then!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pompeii No.30: The Transom Solutions

When I moved into my house more than 25 years ago, it had changed very little since the 1940s. Upon entering, a guest would face two very disparate arches — a perfectly round one leading into the hallway, and an ovoid one that lead into what is now the Pompeii Room.

The two odd arches met at one point and created a design tension that bothered me to no end.

When I built bookcases on two living room walls, I neatly hid both arches by building a shelf that also connected the bookcases. For a number of years, the shelf was a display area for many collections that ringed the living room, much like a museum.

The displays were quite a conversation piece, but as time went by, I divested myself of almost all of them. Then I added the back-lit crown moulding which you see in the photo above, taken when the Pompeian project was in an early stage.

The unusual living room shelf created a space in the Pompeii Room that I've always called "the transom." And this photograph of the transom explains why at the very beginning of the project I painted masonry around the hallway entrance:

I simply needed to make sense of the transom by painting it as an architectural element that would unite both sides of the room. And so my goal is to transform the structure from a quirky transom into something akin to the top of a Roman triumphal arch!

Next week I'll reveal the first of three painted bas reliefs, and I'll start with that long central panel.

I hope you'll join me then — it's going to be fun!