Sunday, December 12, 2010

Feltria Ars

As I have mentioned before, in the later 19th and early 20th centuries there was an Arts and Crafts movement among the embroiderers and lacemakers of Italy. Many regions recovered lost needlework techniques or invented new ones and above all sought to provide a means of support for local women through the sale of their needlework.

Urbino was no exception and the association named Feltria Ars took inspiration from the local paintings, frescos and artwork to produce their unique needlework during this period.

Elisa Ricci in her book Ricami Italiani, Antichi e Moderni tells us:
"In Urbino a young lady of the aristocracy wanted to give work to the women of the area and gathered around her other ladies who helped voluntarily. The designs and inspirations for the new embroideries were taken from [the works of] Allegretto Nuzi, the brothers from San Severino and Antonio Alberti which offered thousands of little motifs, adorable for their freshness and grace, which adorned the clothing, drapery and halos of their saints."

Here are a few pictures:

Embroidered in turquoise silk thread on white cloth by Feltria Ars of Urbino. Motif taken from a painting by Allegretto Nuzi. You get the idea from a painting by the same artist at the National Gallery in the UK:

Feltria Ars of Urbino. Motif taken from a fresco by the brothers from San Severino:

You can see the pattern on the Madonna's robe (sorry I couldn't find a better pic):

Feltria Ars of Urbino. Motif taken from a painting by the master Antonio Alberti da Ferrara:

Again, just to give you an idea, here's a work by Antonio Alberti with motifs on the Madonna's robe (again, hard to see - click on the photos for a closer look):

The Feltria Ars association also "embroidered with coloured straw with which they made unique tassels" to quote Lucia Petrali Castaldi in her book Dizionario Enciclopedico di Lavoro Femminili. She also writes that the most important artistic handiworks to come from Feltria Ars were their hand-stamped fabrics using stamps from the 15th and 16th centuries.

I am unable to find out anything further on Feltria Ars or who the "young lady of the aristocracy" was who started it all. If you know anything will you post a comment below?


  1. Have you looked it up in the multi-volume work (in Italian) by Rosita Levi Pisetzky, yet? She'd be the first place I'd start.

  2. Unfortunately I don't have access to them, the World Catalogue still doesn't show any library holding them this side of the ocean.
    Storia del Costume in Italia has long been on my list of books desired if I were rich. Do you have access to them?

  3. Are there no scans in the Google online books? There are copies in local libraries. Alas and alack, my life is topsy turvy right now, but after January, if you're still interested, I could try to pop into one of the local libraries to check it out. You'll have to remind me, though!

  4. A fascinating insight into the complex Arts & Crafts movement in Italy. Thanks very much for the information.

  5. Star, if you find the time, I would be forever grateful but do not worry too much about it. I hope your life gets calmer soon!