Sunday, July 3, 2011

Anghiari Embroidery

Anghiari is a town in Tuscany located northeast of Arezzo. The town is perhaps most well-known for the Battle of Anghiari fought in 1440 and painted by Leonardo DaVinci in a fresco at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence between 1504 and 1505. The fresco was lost but a drawing by Peter Paul Rubens around 1603 is said to be a copy of the center scene, perhaps you recognize it:

The Battle of the Standard by Peter Paul Rubens, image taken from Wikipedia.

In the early twentieth century Anghiari was, like many Italian towns, participating in an arts and crafts movement with laboratories of needlework springing up all over Italy to provide women with a means to earn money and support their families. Ladies of the aristocracy promoted and supported these schools and workshops and much of the handiworks produced were exported to other countries for sale.

A lady from the UK by the name of Beatrice Lyle Smith living near Anghiari was instrumental in the production of Anghiari Embroideries beginning around 1901.

A photo from the Italian Almanac for 1904 shows a picture of the rustic style of Anghiari Embroideries:

From the collection of Bianca Rosa Bellomo, Italy. Almanacco Italiano 1904, R. Bemporad e Fo. Editori, Firenze, pg. 336.

The world had already seen Anghiari Embroideries displayed at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts in Turin in 1902 resulting in a flood of orders and praise. I saw the catalogue of this exposition sitting on the shelf in one of the displays in the Liberty House Museum in Chiaramonte Gulfi and begged the curators to let me look at it but alas, they refused.

In 1904 at the World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri "Ethle-Beatrice Smith, Arezzo", took a gold medal for hand embroidery. I have been unsuccessful in finding out more about this prize-winning piece, the people at the 1904 World's Fair Museum tell me it is unlikely that a photo would have been taken of it, even though it won a gold medal.

Anghiari Embroideries are mentioned in reviews of the works at the 1906 World's Fair in Milan and other international exhibitions in Europe during the early part of the 20th century.

In 1907 in Venice at the Seventh International Exposition of the Arts, Anghiari Embroidery was featured as part of a doorway exhibit with "Bice Smith" mentioned:

From the collection of Claudio Romeo, Italy.
Close up detail of the photo above. From the collection of Claudio Romeo, Italy.

From the collection of Bianca Rosa Bellomo, Italy.

No trace of existing pieces of Anghiari Embroidery in Italy have been found, as the works were mostly made for export to the United States, I had hoped to find some examples on this side of the Atlantic, but I have been unsuccessful so far.

More precise information on the execution of Anghiari Embroidery and the information which has been found can be read at TuttoRicamo, click on the British flag for the English version, then "Techniques", then "Anghiari Embroideries".

If you know anything or have seen anything of Anghiari Embroideries in the US or elsewhere, would you leave a comment below?

Heartfelt thanks go to Claudio Romeo and Bianca Rosa Bellomo for permission to use their photos!

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