Thursday, May 4, 2017

Via Anicia Roma

Here is another of my Roman watercolor studies from 1976. I tried to capture as many textures and colors as I could. The dark red wall sits upon the old brick foundations of a noble Roman family house of the late era about 400 AD. They were called the Anicia family hence the name of the street you can see on the stone sign is "Via Anicia."

The Anicii were important to me because I used them as characters in a historical/fantasy novel I wrote most of in college and in Rome. I never finished it but here, as much as I can remember, is the plot, with some embellishments from now added for it to make sense.

The scene is Rome, 410 AD. Aurelia Anicia, age 15, is an educated young lady of the Anicia family (yes, based on me) who escapes from her family as she tries to run away from an arranged marriage to a money-grubbing young noble. She falls under the influence of a powerful, rich ship-owner (think Aristotle Onassis) who is a eunuch from the imperial court and an ex-slave, named Heliodorus. He is rumored to have in his possession a magical manuscript (the title of the novel would have been "The Miraculous Manuscript" or "Codex Mirabilis"), a Bible which can not only heal people by touch but predict the future by opening a random page and pointing out a sentence. He allows Aurelia to examine it and decides that he will offer it to the archbishop of Constantinople, with Aurelia as its keeper. They sail, along with many of Heliodorus' friends and allies, to Constantinople where a major religious dispute and street war is going on. After many adventures including fending off a pirate attack they arrive in Constantinople and gain access to the Archbishop, John Chrysostom. The Archbishop views the manuscript and declares it a fraud, and threatens to lock Aurelia up in a convent for blasphemy. During a riot Heliodorus and Aurelia manage to return to their ship and sail away from Constantinople, carrying the precious manuscript. At one port stop Heliodorus is found by fanatics trying to get the manuscript and is stabbed in an assassination attempt. Aurelia finds him dying but since she still has the book she invokes its magical powers of healing and he survives. They set sail again and in the middle of the night, giving up on this madness, Aurelia drops the book overboard, considering it too powerful and blasphemous to keep in the world. Heliodorus, when he finds out, decides to simply send her back to Rome where a barbarian invasion is imminent. Instead, she foretells that Heliodorus is doomed unless he sends her back to Jerusalem where she will join the scholarly circle of Saint Jerome. Having destroyed the miraculous book, she now has the powers of it attached to her. She persuades Heliodorus to change course. At the end, Aurelia is seen at the bow of Heliodorus' ship heading towards Jerusalem, while Rome burns under the Vandal attack.

Not all of this is the original plot, I've changed a lot of it, but no, I will NOT re-write this text, once is enough.

"Via Anicia" is watercolor on Canson paper, 8 1/2" x 11", painted in Rome, summer 1976.

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