Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Arnaldo Caprai

There are some websites that I like to get lost in... where I continually find things I haven't seen before, where I see things that make me want to investigate them further and about which I want to learn more.

The various websites of Arnaldo Caprai keep me interested in going back again and again.

I first discovered the immense textile-related collection of Arnaldo Caprai when I purchased a book many years ago online called: In Viaggio con Penelope. [Travelling with Penelope] This book is actually a catalogue of an exhibition held in Perugia in 1989 of some artifacts from Arnaldo Caprai's collection of over 24,000 pieces of textile-related materials.

Bridal outfit 1940s, possibly made on Burano, found at an antiques market in Florence, image from In Viaggio con Penelope:

The text is in Italian and there are many historical and informational articles on the pieces shown but there are also many, many photos. There are photos of paintings depicting lace and embroidery, embroidery materials like sewing boxes and their contents, frames, lace pillows, old pattern books and catalogues;

L'Arte del Taglio, an Italian monthly fashion publication, May 1, 1915, image from In Viaggio con Penelope:

...sewing tools like clothing irons and machines, fabric stamps and pretty much any tool related to the textile arts.

Venetian needle lace pillow, late 1940s early 1950s, image from In Viaggio con Penelope:

There are photos of embroideries and laces: samplers, table and personal linens, household furnishings, articles for clothing like collars, cuffs, bonnets, trims, etc. Most of the artifacts are Italian but the collection includes pieces from around the world.

The Arnaldo Caprai collection has been called "probably the most important private textile collection in the world." The various websites are showcases for not only pictures of some of this collection but also a great source of little bits of information. Pieces range in age from the 8th century up to 1940.

The Virtual Museum website has so many pages that even though my Macintosh computer will not permit me to view the virtual rooms, (and anyway I can still read the text even if I can't access the virtual room pictures) I still haven't looked at all the other pages and the website has been online now since 2007.

The Study and Research Centre page has a listing of all books and catalogues published from 1980 to 2005. You can find some of these items for sale at used bookstores online. Be aware that they are made of heavy gloss paper and shipping costs can be quite high!

The Techniques pages have instructional videos for a "taste" of how the techniques are executed and photos plus lists of other books (not put out by Arnaldo Caprai) for further reading and study of related topics.

The Collection pages are broken down further into categories which display photos (you can zoom in really close to see details) and information on many things. Use the search engine on the left to get lost for hours! Not everything is translated into English and some of the slideshows are slow to load but be patient - it's worth it!

The Curiosity pages have several mini-articles on things from trousseaux to furnishings to clothing.

The Caprai Group pages show you all the other sectors Arnaldo Caprai is involved in like household linens, clothing and even wine. This site in turn takes you to all kinds of other things like along the bottom of the pages: News takes you to more recent events and exhibitions, the Textile Production Process is packed full of each step that textile products go through before being sold. And of course if you want to know more about the man, his businesses, his activities, etc – click on his smiling face!

In 2004 Poste Italiane (the Italian Postal service) together with Arnaldo Caprai produced a letter stamp to honour lace. It is a sticky-back fabric stamp worked with machine-embroidery.

From the 28th of May until the 20th of June, 2010 there will be an Arnaldo Caprai exhibition in the Costume and Textile Museum at the Palazzo Rosati Spada in Spoleto on "Wedding Traditions and Love" featuring 100 items which relate to the symbolism of wedding gifts covering the period between the 17th century and 20th centuries. This exhibition will be preceded by a press conference featuring Arnaldo Caprai himself on May 28th at noon at the Hotel Clitunno in Spoleto. Just in case you happen to be in the area...

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