Sunday, July 28, 2013

Raw Sienna, J. Peterman's, Rome and Siena

Rome painting, Earl V. Staley, 1980s
This summer, all roads lead to Rome. Our on-line searches, meandering thoughts and accumulating actions all lead to this Italian sojourn that Earl and I begin on September 8. I have never been to Rome - or any where at all in Italy, and so at 71, I am thrilled with the notion of having the time and ability to spend eight weeks in Rome and Florence, Siena, Venice, Pompeii and Naples with a fellow traveler who knows these cities and is steeped in knowledge of their art and architecture.
Earl's sketches Casa Rustica @ American Academy, 1981
Earl's been in Rome before.  He won the American Academy's Rome Prize in 1982 and for a year, he lived at the Academy, high on that Roman hill overlooking the city.  Loved it so much that he stayed on for three more years, ever more absorbed by Rome's vibrant street life and its millenniums of art and architecture.
My daughter Caroline spoke similarly of Rome after her Italian honeymoon in 2001.  "It was strangely wonderful to see a woman in stilettos pass by the Coliseum on the back of a Vespa." She was caught up in the juxtoposition of different worlds absorbed in a single glance. Again and again. I will be too.
1980s Rome Painting, Earl V. Staley
Yesterday, Earl got a package from J. Peterman. He'd ordered the 'Be Here Now' jacket and matching slacks. In the catalog, the cotton twill jacket appeared an Out of Africa khaki color. The descriptive copy was compelling:
"Be Here Now. It's the key to living...You need something. I offer you this suit. When you want to marshall all your resources...put this on.  It isn't for boy scouts, though. Some may think you look dangerous. Faded fabric with clean European design, it's a bit arresting. It takes a certain charisma."
Charisma, indeed. Earl put this new jacket and slacks on and  immediately, I asked if he would step outside in broad day sunlight.  I had to see the true color of this outfit.
"Wow," I said, "Wow, it's raw sienna. It's definitely yellowish." I thought about my tube of raw sienna acrylic paint in the studio.
"You'd have to have chutzpa, an attitude to wear an entire suit of this color, " I tell him. "Your shirt, your shoes, everything would have to be carefully calibrated for 'a look.'  It has definite possibilities, though, in my personal experience, I know only two men who could pull this off with aplomb - my brother John and Sandy AKA Rosco Sanford. Earl is professorial at times, at ease in Mexican shirts and cargo pants.
I've learned that raw sienna pigment was first made during the Renaissance from Terra de Siena (earth of Siena). "If you wear that suit in Siena, you'll be in camouflage. Totally invisible. Could be interesting," I say.
Before breakfast this morning, Earl tells me, "I'm returning the J. Peterman suit."
"Really," I say, "Why not keep the jacket? It'll be great with taupe and loden slacks. Great with jeans. It's the whole suit that would take some doing."
He tried the jacket on again. It's definitely has something. It'll work.
So go the preparations for this two month hegira. This afternoon we sit at the dining room table overlooking the hot and humid back garden. We've checked Rome's September and October weather. Stats show temperatures of 78 - 60 degrees in September; 71-53 degrees in October. I am rethinking what I'll take for warmth - the grey fleece jacket or the green tapestry coat?
"And what in particular do you want to see when we day-trip to Siena?", I ask.
His answer is swift, "The Pinacoteca Nazionale. There is room after room filled with small exquisite paintings. Egg tempera on gold leaf."
What a guide I'll be traveling to Siena with, a guide in a raw sienna cotton twill jacket who can tell me about 14th century paintings like this 'Annnunciation' by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.  J. Peterman, you have triumphed again.

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