New Book | The Colours of Rome

Posted in books by Editor on May 3, 2014

From The Old School Press:

John Sutcliffe, The Colours of Rome: An Examination of the Use of Colour on the Façades of Today’s Rome, with Historical and Other Notes, and a Selection of Colours Copied on Site (Bath: The Old School Press, 2013), 32 pages, ISBN: 978-1899933334 (standard edition), £185 / $350.

???????????????????????????????John’s vision for this book was a survey of the city’s colourscape, a palette of colours so different from that of, say, Venice, Tuscany, or Palermo, and a palette that is today in a period of great change. His new essay traces the history of that palette and the influences that have led it to its state today.

To illustrate the essay John made several trips to Rome, returning finally with twenty sheets of colours copied directly from the buildings themselves. His carefully chosen selection is designed to demonstrate the diversity of the palette and also to draw together two very different strands of tradition that have created the appearance of the streets of Rome today. Each of the twenty colours is illustrated with a large painted patch applied directly onto its own sheet of Magnani wove using water-based paints. These sheets are loose in a wallet within the cased sleeve that holds the book, thus making it possible for the reader to explore the colours in different combinations just as they appear in Rome. A swatch card of chips of the twenty colours is also included in the wallet.

The wallet in the sleeve contains the paint-outs for the twenty colours that John Sutcliffe has chosen as representative of the colours of Rome. They are accompanied by a swatch card summarising the full set.

The wallet in the sleeve contains the paint-outs for the twenty colours that John Sutcliffe has chosen as representative of the colours of Rome. They are accompanied by a swatch card summarising the full set.

The text is printed in 14pt Dante on a large page of Magnani hand-made laid paper, with headings printed from wood-letter. The book is bound in full cloth and is protected by the sleeve inside which the wallet of paint patches is attached. In addition to the standard edition of ninety-nine copies there were twenty-five de luxe copies (ALL SOLD) that take the form of a solander box containing, as well as the standard edition book, bottled samples of nine of the most important pigments, mostly earths, in powdered form. The book is 323mm by 235mm (about 12.75 inches by 9.25 inches); the solander box is slightly larger and 92mm deep (3.75 inches). The price is £185 (euro235, US$350) for a standard copy (and was £350 (euro435, US$580) for a de luxe copy). Trade discount is one quarter. Postage and packing are charged as usual at cost.

If you know our books you will know we love colour, so this was a project that appealed from the outset. If Rome, architecture, and the way our cities change interest you, this book will appeal, and we hope that the production qualities will enhance your enjoyment. Uniquely, it is the only record of the most characteristic colours to be seen in Rome today, perhaps the only such survey of any city.

John Sutcliffe knows about colour. A former regional curator at the National Trust and now active as a decorative painter, his expertise in the topic, in particular in an architectural setting, was extensively used by Farrow & Ball, a company that will surely be known to many, at the time when they were first building up their reputation for traditional paints and hand-produced wallpapers. For many years John’s interest in colour has taken him to the Mediterranean, to Italy, and in particular to Rome. The buildings of Rome’s centro storico carry on their walls many layers of coloured limewash and distemper, layers that have both accumulated and decayed over time, thereby capturing the changing fashions in colour.

More information is available here»

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As described by Martin Gayford for The World of Interiors (May 2014), p. 50:

1558529_756332151077493_7209982239209948661_n[The book] is a work of decorative art in itself, elegantly printed and bound by a private press in a limited edition. . . . In the course of his investigations, Sutcliffe made a discovery. His initial assumption was that the shades he saw had been used since the days of ancient Rome. This turned out to be completely wrong. . . . Tastes in colour in the age of Michelangelo, Bernini, and the Grand Tour were all different, both from each other and from what can be seen today. In earlier centuries, Rome would have looked lighter and bluer. . . . The dramatically dark walls Sutcliffe loves date back only to the late 19th century and the Mussolini regime. In recent decades, these have begun to be replaced by a new fashion for ‘old colours’—that is, 17th- and 18th-century hues rediscovered by careful scraping of old paintwork. The colours of cities seem, like most things, to fluctuate through time.

David Watkin likewise praises the “beautifully produced book,” in his review for TLS, “Raw and Burnt,” (7 March 2014): 22.

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