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Fashion Witnessed: Italian Visual Art

Johnny 2018-04-10 09:54

Currently, a thematic exhibition titled as Il Ritorno in Italia is held in the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in Florence, Italy. The exhibition presents with the charming mood of Italy in the 1920s. Carlo Sisi, the curator of the event, was inspired by the brand founder Ferragamo’s return voyage across the Atlantic. Collaborated with academic board and under the visualization of setting decorator Maurizio Balò, she gave birth to the exhibition which reveals the visual arts of Italy in the 20th century through Ferragamo’s eyes. The exhibition looks back the art motifs and works that directly or indirectly influenced his creation, as well as the cultural and social environment then. Meanwhile, this specific period of history gave birth to countless designing ideas and artistic creations and enabled liberal and bold artists to realize their wildest dreams.

Back to Italy

The exhibition starts from the first hall. The prologue introduces the historical background of one of the biggest ocean liners of Navigazione Generale Italiana Company – Roma. This was the luxurious liner which Ferragamo took to return to his motherland, Italy. The exhibition hall shows several photographic works, recording the exquisite suites and extravagant lifestyle on the ship. The theme of sailing across the Atlantic is thus revealed and dominates the whole exhibition. Moreover, the hall also presents the ad brochures and indoor design drafts of the luxurious ocean liner.


The video device at the center of the hall plays the life moments when he was in his hometown, his career experience after he grew up to practice in American film industry, and quite a few pieces of news on his great success in Hollywood.

In addition, the exhibition hall also puts on display a series of his travelling files and American identity certifications on his returning, as well as the classic shoe style he designed at that time. Besides, the specially designed shoes for small-budget film stars are all on exhibition, while none of them is negligible in significance. The hall also presents a painting by Pippo Rizzo which portraits a modern traveler yearning for a new adventure, symbolizing the two marvelous trips Ferragamo made. One of them is going to America and the other is returning to Italy from the New World. Another piece of work is the Still Life by Mino Maccari. The box engraved with ‘Italy’ characters implies the bright future of spreading Italian handicrafts to the entire world.

Florence in the 20th Century

Entering the second exhibition hall, you would be warmly welcomed by a series of marvelous paintings by some distinguished artists in the 20th century – Giovanni Colacicchi, Egisto Ferroni, John Baldwin, Giuseppe Piombanti Ammannati and Ottone Rosai. They all ever vividly portrayed the charming sights of Florence with their various styles of touches. Among which Rosai’s works draw extra attention. The painter reproduced the tranquil and peaceful Florence in the 15th century with his delicate paintbrush. He flawlessly interpreted the unique cultural atmosphere, as the magazine Solaria ever described. Art, literature, music and even films all became the hit topics at that time.


That is exactly the Florence where Ferragamo once lived. In addition, Rosai’s works restored the architectural features and development of the city, as well as the unique charm that attracted well-behaved tourists to revisit the place time after time. At the center of the exhibition hall, a screen plays a short movie produced after the fashion designer returned to Florence, which is also a rare recording of Florence in the 20th century.

Italian Folk and Decorative Art

The third exhibition hall is themed on folk and local art, which led Italian contemporary decorative art to its rejuvenation. The hall first exhibits the works from Roman Ethnography Show back to 1911. Among them some pieces are collected from various regions in Italy to be collectively on the fashion show. A number of exquisite art pieces are also presented in the hall, including the Sardinia ceramics by Federico Melis, the Roman style arts by Duilio Cambellotti, the luxurious works by Vittorio Zecchin from Veneto region of Italy, and the futuristic works by Fortunato Depero.


These art works for practical use have been on exhibition all over the world since Monza Biennale in 1923. Multiple forms of art activities pushed the further development of the classical idea of “Made in Italy” based on the local regionalism and its national cultural recognition. Henceforth the unique Italian fashion style was born.

The Italian Women

After WWII, women welcomed the full emancipation of rights. They got rid of the bound of maternal stereotype and were no longer the repressed laborers. They began to stand out in social activities, entered art circle and participated in all sorts of festival celebrations and sport events. After the emergence of the concept “femme fatale”, the female emancipation that got on the top pushed forward a brand-new trend from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. In the fourth exhibition hall, a large area is devoted to the presentation of women closets and paintings. The various clothing in the closets are suitable are for different situations. While the paintings show the living scenes of famous women figures. Moreover, the fourth hall also exhibits the portrait photography works of women artists, photographers, authors, actresses and politicians. They are all reputable in their respective fields. To name a few, Marquise Luisa Casati, Margherita Sarfatti, Alma Fidora, the Wulz sisters, Edina Altara and Paola Borboni are among them.


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