A few years ago, I visited Borgo Castello di Gorizia, where Raffaella Sgubin, Director of the Provincial Museums of Gorizia, accompanied me to the archives of the Museum of Fashion and Applied Arts. Among costumes, hats, and other artifacts, I was struck by a collection of silk samples, rich in colors and designs.They explained to me that that nucleus of artifacts was one of the first acquisitions of the Civic Museum of Gorizia, established at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was an extraordinary artifact made up of 753 small fragments from different periods, sewn together to form a precious patchwork, known by the curious name of “Seculin blanket”.The “blanket” had been donated to the Museum by the heirs of Lodovico Seculin, a famous Gorizia merchant of fabrics and haberdashery items, active in Gradisca and Gorizia at the end of the nineteenth century.
Starting from the mid-nineteenth century (perhaps even earlier), up to the first decades of the twentieth century.
Although it cannot be affirmed with certainty that in all instances these are local productions, it must be remembered that historically in the Gorizia area the silk art had a considerable social and economic importance, so much so that the famous French masters affirmed that the Gorizia silks competed with the best in Italy! Already at the end of the seventeenth century, in the extreme eastern outskirts of the Friulian Plain and in the Venetian Po Valley, south of the Venetian Alps and the Friulian Prealps, around the centers of Gradisca, Gorizia and Pordenone, Francesco Ulderico della Torre (1629-1695), captain of the county of Gradisca and ambassador to Venice gave a strong impulse to the silk industry. In nearby Gorizia, ruled by Emperor Charles VI of Habsburg (1685-1740), raw silk, damask, velvet, brocatelle and ribbons were woven; moreover, sericulture had great expansion as well as mulberry plantations. The maximum development of this industry, however, we owe it to the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria (1717-1780), who in order to favor the Gorizia craftsmanship, had even banned the import of canvases, drapes, ribbons, brocades, stockings of French manufacture.
Returning now to the beautiful “Seculin blanket”, after its acquisition the pieces of fabric were unstitched, subjected to a careful restoration and mounted on panels. Thus exposed, despite having lost the original patchwork character, they can be better admired, one at a time. Square or rectangular in shape (about ten / fifteen / twenty centimeters per side) they testify to an incredible variety of decorative and technical solutions, far from the modern way of production. My eyes no longer knew where to gaze: on the powder pinks, greens and yellows of the stripes that evoke the joie de vivre and therefore the eighteenth-century taste, or on the geometric designs with strong tones, typical of the evolution of textile design of the late nineteenth century? The color combinations, the use of moirè and Chiné à la branche effects are beautiful.The panorama that the numerous fragments create highlights creativity, ingenuity, technical skills: aspects that evolve affect the shapes that are now soft, now squared with striped or checked, sometimes crossed by theories of small floral or geometric motifs … An attentive ear also perceives the rustle of these impalpable and shiny silks, created for elegant dressing, but also to make precious and refined furnishing accessories.
Symbols of belonging to a wealthy and cultured social class, these artifacts with a unique and unrepeatable character, testify to the taste, lifestyles, design and manual skills of an era, but also many other values that must be preserved, understood, disseminate and passed on.
* The photographs are from the Carmen Romeo archive