Friday, April 5, 2013

Rosita Levi Pisetzky

It's funny how the mind works. For months I've been searching for biographical information on Rosita Levi Pisetzky always turning up empty. I finally decided to post what I had, believing that I couldn't find out any more without visiting some Italian archives, perhaps in Milan.

I received a comment from a reader this morning that said she had spoken with a descendant of Rosita Levi Pisetzky about 10 years ago on the phone in Milan. Sitting down at my computer after work today, I suddenly decided on a different set of search words and bam! I finally discovered something. Not searching in the field of textiles at all, but searching in the history of Milan.

On the website Storia di Milano, the death (in Milan) of Rosita Levi Pisetzky is listed as an event on the 18th of January, 1985. Inputting the event sentence as written on the Storia di Milano website into Google produced a link to the bookseller Maremagnum which had a rather informed bit of information on the author of the encyclopedia set that I told you about yesterday including her birthdate of 1898. This means she published the history of costume in Italy encyclopedia set when she was about 66 years old... and the book that I have, Il costume e la moda nella società italiana when she was 80!

Further searches brought me to the source of this information on Google Books which comes from an entry in the Dizionario della Moda [Dictionary of Fashion] by Guido Vergani, 2010. Here is a translation:

Levi Pisetzky, Rosita (1898-1985) Clothing historian. An intellectual from the Milanese upper-middle class, she was defined as "The Lady of Italian Costume" by Guido Lopez in an article written after her death in 1985. A self-taught historian with a life passed in studying archives, literary texts and iconographic sources, she published the most important treatises on the history of costume in Italy. Her first studies came out between 1937 and '38 in various women's magazines and journals. The articles on the history of the lace of that period remain notable for their careful research.
Between 1954 and '62 she wrote about the history of costume in the various epochs for the "History of Milan" published by Treccani in 16 volumes. These studies were expanded and then printed in a work of five volumes edited by the Italian Editorial Institute under the title "Storia del costume in Italia" between 1964 and '68. In 1978 Einaudi published "Il costume e la moda nella società italiana", further development and updating of her historical research. She was the first to treat the subject in a serious way, studying dress as a means of communication and social document. 
In her later years, she donated her own specialized library to the Collection of Bertarelli Prints of Milan, and her collection of vintage clothes to the Civic Collections of Applied Art of Milan, both located in the Castello Sforzesco, where they are still accessible today.
After her death, her wardrobe was donated by her family to the Bertarelli. It is an interesting collection of tailored garments of Milanese manufacture from the 1950s and '60s.
-- Virginia Hill 

Now isn't that a treasure trove of leads to follow up? I've been to the Castello Sforzesco in Milan too, and obviously didn't understand what I was looking at or missed it completely! I'll have to go back!

Castello Sforzesco in Milan. Image from Wikipedia.

I hope this gives those who are interested some more to go on. I'll post again when I've got more info.


  1. The costume collection has been transferred to another museum site, Palazzo Morando, nestled in the heart of the Montenapoleone high fashion ready-to-wear quarter. I haven't had a chance to see it, yet, but you've inspired me, especially since it's a stone's throw away from the lovely Bagatti Valsecchi Museum, where I work. Here's the info on Palazzo Morando: If, after the visit, I have something significant to tell you, I'll write, again.

  2. Interessantissimo, mia cara. non avevo mai sentito parlare di questa signora.
    Ho visitato lo scorso anno il museo Morando, sarà però il caso di fare un'ulteriore visita, più approfondita: vieni?

  3. Thank you Star! I look forward to your comments after you've been to the Palazzo Morando.

  4. Magari Blandina!!! Ma se vai tu, mi racconterai?

  5. Hi there. My name is Drea Leed. I love this blog--my interest is more clothing-centric than lace-centric, but I have researched Italian dress for a while now and you have some fantastic stuff here.

    I read this post of yours, and realized I might have something of interest to you. When I bought my copy of the five volume Storia del Costume in Italia, I discovered some correspondance between Rosa and J.L. Nevinson (the original owner of the book, and also one of the first reviewers of it.) Would this be something you're interested in? I can send you a scan of the letters if you like.

  6. Oh Drea I would love to see the letters - how wonderful that you have them!
    You can find my email addy when you click on the "about me" section at the top of the page. Thank you so much!

  7. Amazing that I am searching for biographical info on Rosita Pisetzky and that you have provided some excellent avenues to follow. As to the final comment made by Drea.....please don't leave us hanging!! I own several books by Nevinson and would love to know what the correspondence included.

  8. Jeanine, Since my last post in 2014 re: the Pisetzky/Nevinson connection, I have acquired the five volume Storia del Costume in Italia and Il costume e la moda nella società italiana. Did you ever post something about the Nevinson letters from Drea? I hope I haven't missed it.

  9. No Armida I have not posted anything further, life has gotten in the way of my hobbies for quite sometime now. One day I will get back to this!