Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The "Paradises for Ladies" in Rome

Recently I'm really enjoying the TV series The Paradise on TV :D
It makes me feel graciously frivolous, so after this long pause, here is a new article focusing on the "shopping arcades" and malls that popped up in Rome during the Belle Epoque:
Let's move in chronological order along the side streets of Via del Corso... Right behind the elegant yet incospicuous Palazzo Sciarra-Colonna is a little jewel dedicated to the woman of the middle class, the Galleria Sciarra:


The "gallery", now a tiny pedestrial arcade, was originally conceived as an intriguing shopping spot for the borgeois lady.
It was obtained from sacrifying an area of the original palace, on an intuition of Prince Maffeo Sciarra to give to Rome its very "shopping arcade" as was already happening in cities like London and Paris.
Architect Giulio De Angelis was commissioned with the project in 1883, but the main feature of the little space is its rich and generous decorative apparatus, work of artist Gabriele Cellini, who, besides the paintings, realized by encausting technique, took care of the decorations in terracotta and cast iron that enrich the space.
In 1885 the trendy magazine "Cronaca Bizantina", at the time directed by Gabriele D'Annunzio, Italian dandy and friend of the prince, found its site here, but the space would be completed and inaugurated only in 1888.


The decorative motifs were suggested by the writer Giulio Salvatori, and the whole place can be considered a "tribute to the woman" in quite a modern way, considering the era.

The first level of the decorations feature famous quotes from the works of Virgil and Horatio, Latin authors that every woman with basic education should have been familiar with.
These two came from the ode of Horation known as "Wisdom of Moderation" and a verse of the Aeneid by Virgil.

The second level shows us scenes of the daily life of a woman of the middle class:
Here your average modern woman is entertaining herself with music, and is teaching to her daughter to be merciful of less fortunate.

Finally, the third level is dedicated to the vitsues of the modern woman.
It's nice to see how, besides the usual virtues of feminine stereotype ("Loveliness", "Patience", "Modesty"--) even more modern concepts found their relevance ("Justice", "Strenght", "Domination").

Let's get outside back on Via del Corso to take a peek to another interesting specimen of Roman frivolity, the so-called "La Rinascente" Building.
"La Rinascente" is the name of a mall dedicated to Italian fashion products that traces its origin to the "Aux villes d’Italie", the project of the Bocconi brothers from Milan, that first tried to follow the steps of the French "Bon Marché", the famous "Paradis des Dames" that inspired the romance of Zola (and consequently the BBC TV series).
The one who took care of the achitecture is a recurring character, the same Giulio De Angelis who took care of the Galleria Sciarra.
At the same time he was following the building this very mall, which construction started in 1886 and ended in 1889.

The main feature of this elegant, yet imposing building, was the magistral use of light, and its appealing structure of marble, iron and glass.
Right now the inner structure of the building has been altered to the modern taste, but you can still grasp the original suggestion of the multi-layered open building basking in light:

The building was named "La Rinascente" ("The Reborning") in 1917 by another recurring name, our good ol' D'Annunzio, to celebrate its rebuilding after a fire that destroyed it completely. In these years it became the meeting point of various artists: Marcello Duchovic produced original promotional posters for its products and Giò Ponti designed an exclusive line of furnitures for sale.
During the years the society was forced to sell its building, but it moved close-by, in the adiacent Galleria Colonna, now Galleria Alberto Sordi (renamed in 2003 as a tribute to the popular Roman actor).
The Galleria Alberto Sordi is another charming example of Art Noveau in Rome.
It was inaugurated in 1922 after the beginning of the works in 1888, after a struggle of the administration to buy the area from the Piombino family, who owned their very own palace in there.
The architecture belongs to Dario Carbone, that after receiving the commission in 1907, managed to present this original building, perfectly adjusted in the structure of the city:


The planimetry of the building shows a V-shaped plant, where fancy stores and shops are located, providing entrances from the adiacent streets, too.

After the renovation of 2003 and some managerial adventures in 2009, the area is still alive and kicking and I highly suggest you a walk around it to savour the spirit of the troubled, yet fancy and stubborn Roman Belle Epoque.

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