Saturday, November 2, 2013

Prato Textile Museum

I've been back for a whole week after nearly a month in Italy and already the cold and rainy November days here have made the sunny warmth of PugliaLazio and Tuscany seem very far away. To chase away the blues, I'll tell you about my trip to Prato in Tuscany and the Prato Textile Museum.

Museo del Tessuto, Via Puccetti 3, Prato, Italy.

The regional train to Prato from Florence takes 20 minutes and the distance from the Prato Centrale railway station to the Museo di Tessuto is a five minute walk. I've wanted to go there forever and never investigated how easy a trip it really was, no excuses then for not going there every time I'm in Florence!

Since May of 2003 the Textile Museum of Prato has been permanently housed in part of the restored rooms of the old Campolmi textile factory. There is a great collection of photos, past and present at the Comune di Prato website. You can read the history of the Campolmi textile company here.

The present exhibition at the museum is called Officina Pratese. Tessuti del Rinascimento italiano. [Prato Workshop. Fabrics from the Italian Renaissance.] In collaboration with the Fondazione Lisio, who reproduced many ancient fabrics and further produced fabrics inspired by renaissance paintings, this exhibit has some truly breathtaking and rich velvets, damasks and lampasses. If you have Facebook, you can see some of them here and here.

Pictured above: the voided silk velvet woven by Gianpaoulo Cherchiarini of the Fondazione Lisio inspired by Mercury's clothing in Botticelli's painting Primavera.

We were exceptionally fortunate to have a fascinating guided visit by the curator Daniela Degl'Innocenti, an extremely knowledgeable young woman who was able to explain the links between Prato textiles and famous renaissance artists, the rich textile history of Prato and it's people, recount the history of the Campolmi textile factory, show us Leonardo Da Vinci's innovations for textile production and so much more. I could have stood and listened to her for hours. The exhibition's collaboration with the Leonardo Museum in Vinci meant understanding Leonardo's designs for increased productivity for many of the steps in making textiles. Check out the models they've made from his specifications here.

We were even able to study a few of the lace pieces from a collection that the museum holds but are not yet on display as they are being catalogued - let's save that for another post.

The Museo di Tessuto bookshop was a treasure trove of publications that I've seen or read about online but never been able to leaf through and of course I wanted them all! Limited space in my suitcase meant that I was not able to bring home all that I desired but if you're interested in any or all aspects of textile documentation (weaving, spinning, dyeing, fashion, costumes, embroidery, lace and more) you'll definitely find something worthwhile there. 

I highly recommend taking a guided tour, or if you have more time, they offer collection consultations and educational programs as well. 

For more information about Prato's textile history, you can read Iris Origo's biography of Prato's famous medieval merchant Francesco di Marco Datini.

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