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A Room with a View

by Louis Marcelin-Rice
wall paintings in tempera by Fleur Kelly

For the full article see The Mediterranean Garden No 46, October 2006.

Louis Marcelin-Rice describes the apartment in a Renaissance building in Rome where he moved recently:

" is a spacious apartment with high ceilings, some coffered and decorated, but when we moved in we found that the room destined to be our dining room was painted dark chocolate-brown. It is a cross-vaulted room, only about 4 by 4 metres, with a large window looking out on to an intriguing 18th-century courtyard with baroque mouldings and trompe l'oeil features. But... dark brown!"

"...Fleur Kelly, a fresco painter, suddenly came to mind. When she came and saw what was being asked of her she said: "I can't do the ceiling without creating a structure for it to be supported on, so the design will have to start from the floor and work up from there". So there we were, with a much larger project than we had originally intended, covering the walls as well as the ceiling."

"The fun really began when the flora and fauna were put in place. On the back wall, facing the window, a majestic peacock dominates. The sky is dotted with distant seagulls and swallows."

"The space in the room seemed to expand. Two owls sit staring down from the tall branches of unidentifiable plants. As well as birds and plants there are also several creatures that are common in Mediterranean gardens: a tortoise, two lizards, two frogs and two snails. These are all playing around on the trompe l'oeil marble balustrade that surrounds the room."

"In addition to this, inspired by the natures mortes of Giovanna Garzoni, an early 17th-century still-life and botanical painter, on the balustrade, beside the end of our dining room table, there is a bowl of cherries. It is being eyed greedily by an unidentifiable ancient Roman bird. A bit further along, there is a bursting ripe pomegranate being picked at by a daddylonglegs."

"More humour is available over both the doors to the room. One has what appears to be an extremely randy cock approaching a very resigned-looking hen, while at the opposite end of the room a rather sickly pheasant is being lectured by another small unidentifiable ancient Roman bird."

"This year, I had a call from Fleur saying that she would like to come back and add some finishing touches to the dining room! ...two potted plants on the balustrade: an orange tree and an olive tree. Splendid."
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