The phrase “at death’s door” is synonymous with being seriously ill. When someone is looking really under the weather you’ll often hear, “Oh! he’s at death’s door”. While the meaning is quite obvious, where exactly is this deadly door.
So! during the middle ages and beyond it was considered bad luck to take the corpse from a house using the main entrance. Seriously ill people or the recently departed were laid out in the front parlour. From here, there was a smaller door next to the front door that led into the street. It was through this which the dead person in their coffin could be passed.
These doors of the dead are easy to recognise as they are only half doors and were built with a stone ledge to support the coffin as it was removed from the house. The body could be balanced here while everything was made ready for their last journey.
I’ve been walking around the many medieval cities of Italy, and most recently, during my research for Assisi. As you explore the town you can make out the ghostly remains of these bricked up doors in the walls of the houses.
Others have been put to use and turned into shop display windows or now form entrances to another part of the building. Looking around I do wonder how many of the people using these entrances or pricing up trinkets realise that daily they pass through death’s door.
Sketch of Supersized Assisi
I have been commissioned to paint a supersized version of Assisi. Once framed the picture will measure around 1300 cm x 900 cm.
A Child’s view
The commission is for a young lady who bears the name of this wonderful city. The intention is to create a painting full of detail with alleyways, gateways, buildings and wooded hideaways where a child can let loose their imagination and make up tales of wonder and mystery.
Assisi will feature prominently in the centre with vineyards and olive groves filling the foreground. This is pretty much in keeping with the landscape around the town. Field boundaries, copses of trees and little isolated farmhouses will lead up to the start of the town with its gates and walls.
On the left, sitting low to the horizon, will be the Basilica of San Francesco. The upper slopes of Mount Subasio will then fade off on the right hand side. The sky will be a bright, sunburst, a mixture of yellow, orange, pinks, blue and lilacs perfect for this setting.
I’d also like to fill the picture with secret letters, numbers and images to fire a young person’s imagination and get her to look deeper into the painting. We’ll see how this idea pans out though.
Towers, steeples and archways
The size of the watercolour will allow plenty of space to paint a fantastic, magical landscape where kids can have fun adventures. The hope is that people can return to it time and time again and discover new things hidden within the picture.
With the paper successfully stretched it’s time to get painting Assisi in all it’s magnificent detail.