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Leaning out my window at the Hotel Roma in Florence, I sketched and painted the Duomo by Brunelleschi on our first trip there. The ochre colored stucco walls and red tile roofs at sunrise emanate a natural warmth that comes from the earth.

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Note the similarity between the stained glass window from the Middle Ages and the geometric patterns in the stone facade.

 The colors called raw siena and burnt siena are named after Siena, Italy, the place where painters obtained the colored clay used to make the paint. The buildings and streets of Siena are dominated by this color of stone and clay that was used to construct them. 

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In Experiencing Architecture, Rasmussen describes how early architecture was dependent on local materials of construction like red clay for bricks or roof tiles and local stones of various colors. Murals of buildings in Santorini, Greece painted in 3,500 BCE showed decorative black and white checker patterned stone construction. The white marble temples of early Greece were originally pigmented with brightly colored waxy stains.

Michelangelo would have used siena clay to paint his frescoes, the elegant and complex wall paintings. In his most famous work, the Sistine Chapel, the paintings not only decorate the walls with colors, but also illustrate the many stories and teachings of the church. One of the most famous scenes depicted is the painting of God creating Adam. 

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The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo -- public domain

“Certain colors can make an object seem lighter, others heavier, than it is. It can be made to appear large or small, near or distant, cool or warm, all according to the color it is given.”  

-Steen Rasmussen, Experiencing Architecture

Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo -- public domain

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