Top arch, dominated by the church. I could not find any retrospective images relating to the arch in Roman times. There is mention of it on various websites, with its date being as far back as 41 BC in one account, but images - there are none that I could find. So I decided to abandon my idea of painting Romans in their chariots hurtling their way along Via Latina, and instead focused on post Roman times.
The church which dominates, especially today, is my favourite church here (unless I count my church in a cave behind my village). This church is made out of Roman ruins. Recycling at its very best... still standing despite war damage, and its varying dates go back as far as 800. I took this image from a plaque near the entrance to the Aquino museum, then played with the image a little. Aquino had a very watery history, and all roads lead to ... Aquino, not Rome!
I painted this section in misty sepia, setting the arch to the side, and using the church to give a sense of place. There are layers of images well hidden from the viewer, just as the true history is hidden from us.
Second arch, a more joyous section. This is a tribute to the brighter days of the history, before industry arrived. I have adapted the image from a watercolour painting which has wonderful light and detail. Preferring not to make a copy, I took from this the expansiveness of the arch in happier times, and played with the water which was flowing abundantly under and around the arch. The water is a tribute to the history of Aquinum, a very important town which controlled a large area (including my beloved Roccasecca), and which relied on the water for protection (with a moat) and for life. In real time a new excavation nearby is uncovering very impressive Roman plumbing, with baths far more important in size and construction than those at Pompeii. Romans and water... say no more!
Third arch, this is from an image from last century, when we have photographs recording industry moving in. A paper factory now dominates and controls the water, and, unfortunately, also the future of the arch. When I first visited the arch in 2004 I was appalled that such a treasure could be left to be buried under land and water. I wanted to know more about it, but at that point had no idea that I would return to live only a few kilometres from this ancient monument. I hope that I have painted this section with a little sympathy, because I do appreciate that Italy has so much to care for, with so many of the world's treasures located here. How does one even begin to protect and care for so much?
Fourth arch. The dark section represents the present. Industry has robbed the area of any beauty. Despite relatively modern restoration work, the arch is left to languish. By now it has survived also WWII, with some damage. Parts of it are missing, broken. But still there is a majesty about the monument, particularly when I let my imagination remove the layers and layers of dirt to uncover the full height of the monument. I have painted this with angry brushes, with dark colours, with jagged teeth from the biting industry behind the arch.
Fifth arch. And so to the last panel. Bright, clean, and the colours of spring in the as yet undetermined background. Will there always be a paper factory behind the arch? Will romance come again along this path? I have (in the painting) cleaned the stream, removed the grasses, but not taken the water away. That has been done once before, when work on the arch demanded it. Perhaps it is not realistic to ask that the water be diverted but it could be cleaned, cleared, and maybe we could see the Roman Road which probably runs under the arch. And with bridges on either side, we could all enjoy, and marvel at, this splendid piece of history.
The daubs of paint representing people give a happy future to this arch. Alongside the beautiful church, it could be the focal point of a beautiful park; a place for picnics, for the family passaggiata, or a new "lovers' lane". Much as I would love to see the arch excavated completely, I doubt that this is realistic in harsh economic times. And the water does add a lovely, restful element, when not full of brambles and weed.
Will "my" arch have a happy future? Yes, I believe it will. But only if we keep up our efforts to bring it to the fore of all related projects. And that is what this painting is about. Enough with history, and now to the future. Let's move forward, and then we can look back with satisfaction at what we have achieved.
and now, enough. I have a nice, chilled merlot to finish a glorious autumnal day.
Today I am again grateful for these blue, blue skies.