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Bologna Sample
by Angela Lorenz
 
Edition of 50 copies
8.9"x10.5", 40" opened, 33" each page opened
Bologna, Italy 1992

Bologna Sample is the first of what will be a series on sample books. It contains a written history of the colors of Bologna and 179 color samples recorded and reproduced in watercolor by the artist based on personal observation in locus. The stucco buildings in Bologna range from ochre yellow to Bolognese red, but the infinite number of actual variations in between is astounding. Each street resembles a color strip in a paint store. Yet the similarity of one color to another calls for buildings to be defined by their street and number indicated on the blue and white ceramic tiles set into their facades. Present-day colors of Bologna's buildings are an imitation of what their colors were in centuries past, as the paint is no longer made from ground bricks but from silica or lime and chemicals. Richer and poorer areas of the city are now defined not by the color of the ground bricks; only the building structures themselves hint to their past.

Bologna continues to be known as "the red city," and its modern colors are close approximations of the past, as the artist's samples are close approximations of the present. At least for a few years, until the elements, pollution, and restoration continue the gradual course of Bologna's living color wheel.

Text lithographed at Stamperia Valdonega in Univers on acid-free paper made by Cartiere Fedrigoni.



 

 
TEXT
   
   

Bologna Sample

Bologna is a living color wheel spanning from red to yellow with a little brown mixed in. The colors change gradually with light, water, heat, soot and time. And change rapidly with restoration. At any moment an infinite number of oranges and ochres may be found, known traditionally as Bologna red and Modena yellow. Although Bologna has an overwhelmingly orange appearance, the vast collection of tints and shades actually present surprise people when they are extracted and pasted onto white paper. The selection doesn't agree with everyone's mental image of the city. This brown does not exist, they think. This murky yellow-green. This purplish color. Mixed in with all the others in continuous façades which break only along the patterns of the streets, these colors seem more or less the same throughout the center.

Bologna's nickname "la rossa" lends substance to the mental images of the city, although the name now refers to more than the colorful buildings. It first arose in the end of the 19th century, describing the color of the city. Later it was linked to Bologna's communism, a 20th century phenomenon. But this color is a relatively recent trend in the history of Bologna. Recent when considering that modern history in Italy started at the end of the Renaissance, c. 1550. Bologna was a city of red brick towers and wooden supports in medieval times. In later centuries, during Renaissance and baroque periods, buildings were often bright and fanciful, with even blue façades covered by gold stars. In the 1700's, stucco was not popular. Instead, a light veil of color coated the red bricks, giving the city a pastel appearance.

Most people familiar with Bologna's "red" title assume it came about during medieval days. It was actually not until after the unification of Italy, in 1860, when the medieval bricks were uncovered and cleaned, that the new name appeared. Also, the stucco buildings had, over time, become increasingly darker than the pale shades of the 18th century and the neoclassical whites of the first half of the 19th century. Poorer areas were often even more colorful. The buildings found in these areas had less architectural details in light-colored stone, and when pieces of stucco or paint came off, new colors were applied on top without stripping away the old coats and stucco. The newest color was invariably darker in order to hide the old. Both the new bricks and the old stucco changed Bologna's veneer up to the present.

Until the Second World War, the local parishes had the responsibility of painting the houses. They often layered color over color without undertaking full restorations. Tones darkened as well with smoke and pollution. The advent of acrylic exterior paints in the 1960s also resulted in darker colors, and even in colors not native to Bologna. When applied directly to cement, the acrylics "burned" or mutated, causing reds to become dark purples and fuchsias (see VIA S. CARLO, 8), or ochres to intensify (see VIA S. CATERINA, 55). Now paints are required to have a lime or silica base to insure colors remain stable. This continuous progression towards darker colors, combined with dirt and pollution, has necessarily created a city of deep reds, oranges and ochres in the minds of those who have spent years in Bologna.

Recent movements in restoration, both popular and legal, call for buildings to be returned to their original colors. Light peaches and pinks of the 18th century are resurfacing. The pastel "veil" effect is being applied to the bricks of a few important old palazzi. This is creating a stir among Bologna's lifelong residents, shocked at the demise of their "red" city. The apartment owners of one building suffered criticism and protest because of the white color they chose for their neoclassical palazzo, which was originally a similar color (VIA S. STEFANO, 67). Some citizens say it should be orange or red, as Bologna's name dictates. But the color was approved. A resident architect in the building remarked that if the buildings to either side were restored to their original states, his building would not contrast so much with others.

No book or study has been published on the colors of Bologna, unlike in Venice and Turin, when paint manufacturers funded publications to encourage restoration and subsequently business. In the town hall of Bologna there is no visual record of the colors of important buildings, only written descriptions of the various tints. Certain buildings are protected by an urban committee, but many in the historic center are not. An 18th century building is not necessarily considered to be historically significant. When residents want to paint any building in the center, however, they must first choose a color and submit it to the building commission for approval in the town hall. Somehow, several buildings seemingly slipped through the system, appearing as anomalies in the sequence of the color chart of Bologna.

In this sample, the colors do not describe the houses. Instead, the houses describe the colors. The 179 colors represented belong to an infinite collection of hues, nearly identical at times and difficult to distinguish. So difficult that people are rarely able to match the original color of their building when they frequently cover up graffiti with patches of color. Names like tangerine, mango, pumpkin and Nantucket pink could not suffice to describe the array. A more reliable description rests with the individual occurrence of each color, depicted with its street and number below, in the bold blue letters of the white ceramic street signs sunken into the façades of the buildings. The names of the streets are more unusual than names of colors: Broken, Hell, Short Hay, Pitcher On Your Head, Leper, No Name and Rip Clothes Street.

The majority of the palazzi recorded in this book have stucco of a uniform color. In some cases, older or worn buildings are included as the color needed to be represented even though it is somewhat irregular. Some colors have been darkened with pollution, others have almost completely faded with time. For a truly faithful study, the time of day, the date and the weather should have been recorded. Colors change dramatically if they are in shadows, direct sunlight or evenly lit by a cloudy sky. Colors reflect onto opposite buildings, especially when the sun is striking them. This study is reasonably accurate, however, when the inevitable imperfection of empirical knowledge and its subsequent communication is taken into account. This is, after all, only a sample of Bologna, if not the first sample.




Samples:
Page 1, top row
VIA S. CARLO, 8
VIA S. CATERINA, 25
VIA PESCHERIE VECCHIE, 10
VIA AVESELLA, 1
VIA MORANDI, 4
VIA MONTEGRAPPA, 8
VIA CAPRAMOZZA, 8
VIA DELLE TOVAGLIE, 11
VIA S. LEONARDO, 9
VIA S. CATERINA, 26
VIA ZAMBONI, 8
VICOLO PAGLIA CORTA, 13
VIA INDIPENDENZA, 8
VIA FRASSINAGO, 17
VIA DE' MUSEI, 11
PIAZZA CAVOUR, 2

Page 1, middle row
VIA DELL'ABBADIA, 5
VIA REMORSELLA, 11
VIA FRANCESCO ACRI, 4
VIA CARTOLERIA, 7
VIA DEL PRATELLO, 86
VIA BROCCAINDOSSO, 44
VIA FRASSINAGO, 5
VIA S. ISAIA, 9
VIA S. CARLO, 22
VIA REMORSELLA, 18
VIA S. CARLO, 42
VIA MIRASOLE, 11
VIA BARBERIA, 8
VIA MALCONTENTI, 4B
VIA GUERRAZZI, 5
VIA NAZARIO SAURO, 8

Page 1, bottom row
VIA DEGLI ANGELI, 11
VIA S. APOLLONIA, 25
VIA DEI TERRIBILIA, 3
VIA MIRASOLE, 21
STRADA MAGGIORE, 34
PIAZZA DELL'VIII AGOSTO, 7
VIA CENTOTRECENTO, 2
PIAZZA ALDROVANDI, 19
VIA S. CATERINA, 45
VIA FRANCESCO ACRI, 5
VIA MONTEGRAPPA, 11
VIA S. VITALE, 67
VIA ZAMBONI, 60
VIA GANGIOLO, 3
VIA TAGLIAPIETRE, 7
VIA SAN FELICE, 71
     
Page 2, top row
VIA MARSALA, 4
VICOLO STRADELLACCIO, 5
VIA CLAVATURE, 16
VIA STRAZZACAPPE, 1
VIA MIRASOLE, 3
VIA RIALTO, 19
PIAZZA S. DOMENICO, 8
VIA SCHIAVONIA, 13
VIA MAGGIA, 2
VIA DELL'INFERNO, 5
VIA SARAGOZZA, 70
VIA DELLA RONDINE, 1
PIAZZA DELL'VIII AGOSTO, 8
VIA GERUSALEMME, 2
VIA MONTEGRAPPA, 13
VIA RIZZOLI, 8
Page 2, middle row
VIA CALCAVINAZZI, 3
VIA BATTIBECCO, 1
VIA DE' GIUDEI, 1D
VIA VINAZZETTI, 1
VICOLO BROGLIO, 3
VIA SARAGOZZA, 90
VIA GUERRAZZI, 20
VIA MONTEGRAPPA, 9
VIA AVESELLA, 6
VIA S. APOLLONIA, 17
VIA BOCCA DI LUPO, 21
VIA COLLEGIO DI SPAGNA, 9
VIA SENZANOME, 17
VIA BROCCAINDOSSO, 25
VIA NOSADELLA, 6
VIA DELLE DONZELLE, 1
Page 2, bottom row
VIA PALESTRO, 7
VIA DEL FOSSATO, 19
VIA GALLIERA, 11
VIA REMORSELLA, 3
VIA DELLE BELLE ARTI, 2
VIA CASTIGLIONE, 65
VIA BORGONUOVO, 9
VIA DEI FACCHINI, 5
PIAZZA DEI CELESTINI, 5
LARGO RESPIGHI, 6
VIA DEL GUASTO, 3
VIA PARIGI, 12
VIA IRNERIO, 38
VIA DE' LEPROSETTI, 1
VIA URBANA, 13
VICOLO MANDRIA, 3
     
Page 3, top row
VIA MENTANA, 5
VIA DELLE BELLE ARTI, 7
VICOLO DELLA NEVE, 8
VIA PARIGI, 8
VIA SENZANOME, 7
VIA FONDAZZA, 22
VIA DEI BIBIENA, 17
VIA COLLEGIO DI SPAGNA, 7
VIA VALDONICA, 14
VIA TANARI VECCHIA, 11
VIA CADUTI DI CEFALONIA, 2
VIA GOITO, 2
VIA PARADISO, 14A
VIA DE' RUINI, 5
VIA DEI BIBIENA, 4
VIA DEL CANE, 10
Page 3, middle row
VIA MENTANA, 1
VIA SAN VITALE, 51
VIA DEI FELICINI, 4
VIA S. CARLO, 37
VIA MIRAMONTE, 14
VIA DELLE BELLE ARTI, 12
VIA MASCARELLA, 12
VIA MIRASOLE, 15
VIA S. VALENTINO, 3
VIA RIZZOLI, 10
VIA CLAVATURE, 20
VICOLO DEL FALCONE, 21
VIA DELL'INDIPENDENZA, 51
VIA PALESTRO, 10
VIA PIELLA, 1
STRADA MAGGIORE, 45
Page 3, bottom row
VIA TESSITORI, 2
VIA VIAZZOLO, 2
VICOLO CENTOTRECENTO, 9
VIA DEL FICO, 1
VIA S. CATERINA, 55
VIA DEL GUASTO, 1
VIA BROCCAINDOSSO, 35
VIA DE' GRIFFONI, 5
VIA ZAMBONI, 47
VIA ORFEO, 22
VIA CARTOLERIA, 10
VIA PIETRALATA, 57
VIA DEL PIOMBO, 4
VIA DEGLI AGRESTI, 5
VIA PARADISO, 1
VIA CASTELFIDARDO, 8
     
Page 4, top row
VIA RIZZOLI, 16
VIA DAL LUZZO, 6
VIA FARINI, 26
VIA GUERRAZZI, 11
VIA DEL RICCIO, 2
VIA DE' PRETI, 1
VIA BENEDETTO XIV, 6
VIA UGO BASSI, 9
VIA MARCONI, 18
VIA D'AZEGLIO, 62
VIA GUIDO RENI, 2
VIA DELL'INFERNO, 4
Page 4, middle row
VICOLO URBAGA, 1
VIA CA' SELVATICA, 2
VIA DELLA BRAINA, 15
VIA S. STEFANO, 67
VIA DE' GIUDEI, 10
VIA NAZARIO SAURO, 2
VIA S. LEONARDO, 28
VIA SOLFERINO, 12
VIA DAL LUZZO, 2
VIA S. STEFANO, 57
VIA DELLE LAME, 26
VIA BROCCAINDOSSO, 49
Page 4, bottom row
VIA MIRAMONTE, 1
VIA ARIENTI, 18
VICOLO RANOCCHI, 2
VIA DELLE TOVAGLIE, 23
VIA MIRAMONTE, 17
PIAZZA MAGGIORE, 6
VIA CENTOTRECENTO, 13
PIAZZA GALVANI, 3
VIA DEL RICCIO, 4
VIA FARINI, 35
VIA DEGLI OREFICI, 3A
VIA PIETRALATA, 5

   
As no previous study has been published, and written references scarce, this information was collected verbally from architects in the town hall, most notably Paolo Nannelli, and from paint store employees, permanent residents and personal observations in locus.

The 179 colors were all painted by hand in watercolor and glued individually onto acid-free paper produced by Cartiere Fedrigoni. The text was lithographed at Stamperia Valdonega in Verona, Italy in Univers.