Art Deco in Italy- I

Story of Art Deco Style Part I: Rome Quartiere Coppede'

We were taught at school, or better still we were brainwashed, into believing that languages were divided into two broad categories: those that were generally defined as "living" and those considered as "dead" languages. The former were those languages spoken in some part of the globe, while the latter were only studied, but did not constitute a means of communication anywhere in the world except under exceptional circumstances when used for dialogue at elevated cultural levels.

coppedeAmong the spoken languages, Italian is one of those experiencing strong evolution, and every day one finds oneself confronted by new unknown words that initially seem to be either mistaken or else a deviation from correct language usage. In fact, many of these terms are born, inadvertently or by necessity, to indicate an object or concept that the official language does not accommodate.

One word, born out of similarity with the term "antiquariato" (antique or pertaining to antiquity) which was quickly assimilated in the spoken language and is now regularly used, is "modernariato" (modern or pertaining thereto).This term reflects the adaptation of terminology to describe something new and previously non-existent, a need which had never before arisen in the field of aesthetics.


Styles often lasted the length of the life of the monarch that had inspired them and had adopted them, for example the styles of furniture of Luigi XV - Luigi XVI , or Empire. The new styles always represented an evolution or refinement of previous trends, but past styles were never ridiculed or briskly set aside as had been the case for that which today is consideredcoppede "modernariato".

In the immediate period following World War I, there occurred the extraordinary birth of the styles of "Art Nouveau" and "Art Deco" which extended to all areas. Whereas, previously a style had influenced architecture, furniture or ornamental objects, these two styles became so widespread as to affect objects that until then had remained unchanged for centuries, for example cooking ware, posters etc along with the usual impacts on architecture, furniture and similar. No object was able to withstand the influence of these new aesthetic styles, not even coffee pots or faucets.

In the city of Rome, an exceptional event occurred. An architect by the name of Gino Coppede' managed to obtain a commission to develop an entire neighborhood. Everything, down to the last detail of banisters, staircases and doors, was realized following the guidelines of the new style.

Even the smallest pieces of visible marble or bricks were sculpted or designed as though they were valuable pieces of furniture. Beneath one of the arches located on the public street, a chandelier was installed that was not a road lamp, but rather an enormous light fixture similar to that which might be found in the dining room of a upper middle class home.This neighborhood, that has not experienced any damage since the last World War, is fully inhabited and is called the "quartiere Coppede" (Coppede' neighborhood).

Images by Pasquale Comenga

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