Lace, embroidery and decorations
by Giulia Venturini
In the various cultural centers that emerge in Italy and especially in Umbria, textile production plays an important role in expressing taste, the idea of beauty and the values of an era. The textile sector is one of the forms of craftsmanship strongly rooted in the Umbrian economic-social reality.
The charm of this region is discovered through this glorious folk art, which translates into the production between the Fourteenth and Fifteenth century of the famous Tovaglie Perugine, made of white linen. The pannili alla peroscina were appreciated and marketed throughout Europe from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. In the historic center of Perugia, there is still the historical weaving workshop by Giuditta Brozzetti. It is one of the last weaving workshops in Italy where only original looms are used. In addition to Perugia an interesting point of reference is in Città di Castello where, in the splendid rooms of Palazzo Tommasini, in pizza A. Costa, there is the laboratory Tela Umbra, born as a charitable institution by the Baroness Alice Franchetti Hallgarten in order to protect the conservation of this ancient art.
Embroidery and Technique
In Umbria the fabric work is also reproduced by local and foreign painters, through a variety of shapes and techniques; the fabrics underline the almost unreal beauty of Virgin covered with large cloaks entirely painted but which seem to be embroidered on the canvas. In the Fifteenth and the following century, many textile workshops are endowed with the presence of artists, masters and foreigners who bring new techniques and make new embroideries known; the artists therefore also rely on the workshops of the embroiderers, who enjoy a consideration that is not inferior to that of the painters. The garments depicted in the various works in the Umbrian territory are great. The fabrics that are most painted are velvets, damasks, lampas and brocades, a symbol of great value. Next to the processing of the fabrics also that of embroidery, enjoys great prestige. In painters, the garments of their characters are full of charm and elegance and the dress is an integral part of the figure. The design is built with a magnificent and solemn conception of balance: the floral decorations in the Virgin’s garments are becoming more important, recalling acanthus shoots, of classical memory. The suit completes the character: it is the spirit of its elegance and the expression of its refinement.
A dress, an era
And just by observing the change in the shape of the dress and the fabrics, it is possible to perceive the alternation, in works of art, of eras and styles. Of particular importance is the Madonna del Belvedere (1413), a masterpiece of the most famous painter Ottaviano Nelli. The dress delicately follows the body line, while the wide sleeves bear witness to the inspiration of time: not only the garments are embellished with gold, but with the same technique the clothes of the musician angels have also been reproduced. The fundamental garment in the Fifteenth century was in fact the gamurra: a long dress, closed by buttons or by side strings.
Not only does the Virgin have ample and precious clothes, but in the late Gothic style altarpiece (1420-1430) by Antonio Alberti, preserved in the Pinacoteca of Città di Castello, also San Benedetto and San Bartolomeo on the right and left of the Virgin, have very sought after with floral decorations in gold. San Nicola instead, of the Polittico Guidalotti (1437), a famous work by Giovanni da Fisiesole, known as Beato Angelico, is absorbed in reading. In his clothes, gold is not an overlapping element but is woven together with the canvas. The precious brocade of the cope is investigated with a Flemish view of light. The same treatment is used for the white and red dress that emerges from the cope.
Is painted in a monumental way the Madonna dell’Orchestra (1448-1458) by Giovanni Boccati. What is most striking is the Virgin’s dark blue brocade dress with gold floral motifs. A type of Madonna very represented in Umbria is the Madonna della Misericordia, that is the Virgin who welcomes the faithful under her own mantle. The beautiful Virgin of a follower of Niccolò di Liberatore (XV century), now kept in the Civic Museum of Trevi, wears a red amaranth dress decorated with floral motifs and a sumptuous cloak drapes over her shoulders. Very similar is another Madonna della Misericordia (1482) by Bartolomeo Caporali, preserved in the Municipal Museum of Montone: a gold tunic with flowers is the protagonist of the whole scene. Finally worthy of mention, are the Madonna in trono e Santi (1462) by Matteo da Gualdo, now preserved in the Municipal Museum of Gualdo Tadino and the Madonna del Soccorso (XV century) by Francesco Melanzio, in the Municipal Museum of S. Francesco in Montefalco, recently restored.
Finally, beautiful elegantly dressed women are depicted in pump plates, typical of Deruta pottery: the ladies remember, for delicacy of the features and for physiognomy, the type of Virgin painted by Pinturicchio. One of them, housed in the Civic Museum of Ceramics in Deruta (XVI century), is depicted with a blue dress embroidered in gold.
In Deruta also Santa Caterina d’Alessandria, of more recent epoch to the previous noblewomen, is dressed with a long and refined dress with a blue and gold decoration. The Saint, protector of Deruta potters, frames the ancient art of fabrics, lace and decorations, not embroidered on the fabric but rather paintings on canvas, in Umbrian works of art.