Rome: Timeless Images of the Eternal City
By Theadora Brack
Dear friends, Romans, and incurable romantics, lend me your pointy cat ears, kid gloves, and sunglasses. Blame it on the balmy breezes blowing to and fro, but I’ve got a strong hankering for a generous spritz of some misty time travel. That’s how we flow.
As promised, this week we’re making a pilgrimage back to Rome with photographer Maurice Sapiro.
So, get to packing! Don’t forget your coins for the Trevi Fountain. However, leave the party ball gowns and “Playtime Pants” at home, because we’ll also swing by the Sorelle Fontana studio, and nip some stylish garb to call our own.
Helping ignite a worldwide love affair with Italian Haute Couture during the 1950s, Micol, Giovanna, and Zoe Fontana outfitted the curves of the likes of Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, and Kim Novak, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Jayne Mansfield, and Audrey Hepburn.
In addition to her signature draping and beading, Micol Fontana also strutted her stuff as the fashion house’s ambassador at large, fearlessly trekking all over the globe. Victory laps, most likely, because her promotional campaigns possessed “real legs.” Her legs, in fact.
According to one zippy New York Times headline, the enchanting designer traveled with a personal “international wardrobe,” made up of no fewer than 24 custom-made outfits and 70 prêt-à-porter pieces.
“If I had time to make them, I’d wear a new dress every day. I love to change my clothes—I feel that clothes really change one’s mood,” said Micol. I completely agree. And apparently, so did actor Cary Grant, who gave her a lift home after her very first fashion show in Hollywood.
Strike up the band
Now, without further adieu, let’s rendezvous with artist Maurice Sapiro.
In 1956, while on tour with the 279th Army Band as a trumpet player, Maurice photographed the narrow streets and ruins of Rome, experimenting with light and architectural texture. Inspired by the saturated colors of the Lumière Autochrome color film process, he sought to capture the vivid glow of the ancient walls of Rome.
His images still make the heart beat faster, like the Eternal City herself.
I bought a Leica IIIF at the Army PX for ninety-nine bucks. It was mid-September, not crowded at all. I was in Italy before the tourist craze began, so most of my photos are uninhabited. The skies were blue, the weather was perfect, and the pizzas were delicious. I remember a restaurant with an “American Menu” neon sign. The only option for breakfast was coffee and apple pie. That was it!
I was there with my twin brother, Erwin. One night we found a little movie theater. The front façade had marble columns, but the interior had sheets covering the ceiling. There were about sixteen long wooden benches, for an audience of about forty viewers. The movie was a film version of the play and opera Tosca. The entire audience knew the songs and sang along with the cast, and we joined in, of course!
The memories of wandering the ruins of Rome, taking photos for future paintings, are still with me, fifty-nine years later.
Rome will stay with me forever.
Now, let’s take a spin around the city with Maurice. We’ll see the Colosseum by moonlight. I’ll trap us a Vespa!
To view more work by Photographer Maurice Sapiro, check out his website: http://mauricesapiro.com/