“Silk, webbing and lace.” Yarns and fabrics among archival papers

“Seta, fettucce e merletti”. Filati e stoffe fra le carte d’archivio

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Translation by Chiara Cordoni

State Archives of Rome, Sala Alessandrina

European Heritage Days

22 September 2019, 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Documentary exhibition curated by Vincenzo De Meo, Giovanna Mentonelli and Angelo Restaino

The exhibition will be open until October13

www.archiviodistatoroma.beniculturali.it

The exhibition,through a series of documents of various kinds,aims at accompanying the public in discovering the world of textile manufacturing in the Papal State between the end of the 16th and 19th centuries (including those of absolute excellence in San Michele a Ripa): more than twenty drawings, five printed edicts, seven statutes of trade corporations (wool merchants, silk dealers, etc.), including a manuscript statute dating back to 1595. The most original and important part certainly consists of elements that are apparently “foreign” to archival papers: nine samples of yarns and textured fabrics, lively objects hidden among papers that consent the direct observation of fabrics, which luckily reached us as if transported by a “time capsule”. They are fragments of linen, silk, wool, unworkedtextiles or coloured and printed with ornamental motifs that show the variety of the textile production in the Papal State: from the unbleached cloth of the prisoners’ clothes in Civitavecchia to the laces that garnished the papal robes. The drawings on display are also  absolutely extraordinary: they range from stunning illustrations of looms and processing plants to the representation of spinning and weaving mechanisms, to a remarkable selection of “croquis” showing the attire of the pontiff and senior officials of the papal court, as opposed to the more humble one of artisans and workers of popular extraction whose clothes were made in Greece, in the area of Zagoria in Epirus, and imported through the ports of Ancona and Civitavecchia.

The material on display is organized into four thematic sections:

  1. Weaving machines
  2. Yarns, fabrics, laces
  3. Croquis and costumes
  4. The rules of weaving and spinning: proclamations and statutes of the arts

The documentation comes from archival and bibliographic collections from the State Archives of Rome: from the archive of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, rich in projects and drawings filed for the granting of patents concerning the production of particular yarns and the use of avant-garde textile machinery, to the Miscellaneous Soldateschee galere for the supply of linen and fabrics for garments destined to prisoners, payment receipts of the Treasury of the Apostolic Chamber for the purchase of precious fabrics for the Pope and his court, the Collection of proclamations relating to the publication of regulations in protection of the quality of textile production, the rates for the performance of workers and regulations “regarding the moderation of luxury in the Ecclesiastical State”.

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