original painting by Brooke Harker. Available at Lu Martin Galleries in Laguna Beach, CA.
Fiori di Roma (Flowers of Rome) celebrates spring in Rome as flowers bloom in front of Santa Maria di Loreto and Trajan’s Market & Forum (near Piazza Venezia and the Collosseum). I finished this painting one year, to the day, after my return from a five month art residency in Italy. As someone who often gets mesmerized by details, I prefer to experience the energy of a scene, verses attempt to absorb the intellectual history of a place immediately. The formation of these buildings captivated my attention on many walks through Rome. I only saw the flowers in bloom in this spot once, however. Each time I passed after, I knew I had witnessed a jewel. The vibrant red petals spoke of life, passion, and rebirth. There was something magical in the recognition of what blooms anew alongside remnants of the past. If you add a visit here to your bucket list, consider a trip in the spring and you may get to see the flowers too.
History behind Fiori di Roma: Only after the final strokes of thick oil paint landed on the canvas did I get curious about the history of the buildings in the background. I learned that the dome of Santa Maria di Loreto had been designed in the 16th century by one of Michelangelo’s scholars. The structure itself took sixty years to build with multiple architects and is one of over 70 domes throughout the city. Trajan, the emperor of Rome between 98- 117 AD, left a legacy that showed up in several places in this area. The ruins on the right side of the painting are part of Trajan’s Market, considered the world’s oldest shopping mall. On the left side of the painting, you can see the tops of pillars from Trajan’s Forum, the last of the public squares created in ancient Rome. Within the Forum is the Trajan Column, a monument to the Roman victories in the Dacian wars. This column stands out in my mind as being absolutely extraordinary and mind boggling. At 115ft tall, it dates back to 113 AD. It is constructed of 20 marble drums stacked upon each other which weigh 32 tons each and are 12 ft in diameter with a spiral staircase inside of 185 steps. If it isn’t amazing enough to imagine how the Romans hoisted these upon each other, a sculpted bas relief depiction of the epic wars between the Romans and Dacians spirals the outside 23 times. The astounding details in these tiers, which have been referred to as an ancient comic strip, are a must see up close when going to Rome. The column had original designs to be topped with a bird, and then a statue of Trajan, which disappeared in the middle ages. Eventually one of the Popes added a bronze statue of St. Peter in the 16th century which remains today.