ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  exhibitions

Palazzo Pitti
Piazza de' Pitti, 1
Florence, Italy    


Palazzo Pitti, Andito degli Angiolini and Galleria del Costume

3 July – 8 December 2012

Exhibition directed by
Alessandro Cecchi
Caterina Chiarelli

Exhibition curated by
Robert B. Pickering


Exhibition production and management
Opera Laboratori Fiorentini S.p.a.
Civita Gro

  with the kind permission of Rosalia Bonito Fanelli, her review in TSA Newsletter, Fall 2012
see also:
  The New Frontier : History and
culture of the native americans

from the collections of the
Gilcrease museum
Pitti Palace , Florence, Italy
July 3- December 9, 2012

Herman J.Viola , curator emeritus at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and Robert B. Pickering, Deputy Director of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY, (also a forensic anthropologist), have created an extraordinary display in Florence’s Pitti Palace.

The aim of the exhibition was to reach and inform a general public, and this has been expertly achieved. However, as a textile historian, I noticed many Old World-New World cross-currents.
The catalogue (English and Italian texts) edited by Duane H. King, Executive Director of the Gilcrease Museum and Vice-President for Museum Affairs at the University of Tulsa, with Herman J. Viola, provides a wealth of information about the Native Americans through essays on the historical

  background, significant paintings of Western subjects, and photographs by Edward Curtis, plus selected artifacts, including textiles.
The exhibition came about thanks to Laura C. Johnson, an American art historian living in Florence, who had studied at Oklahoma University, and to Osvaldo Giovannelli, formerly of the Uffizi Gallery. “The New Frontier” is situated within the Baroque and Victorian-style interiors of the Medici Grand Ducal palace which, in the 19th century, was a residence of the Italian kings. The resulting contrast is certainly eye-opening for European viewers.
Our 2012 TSA Symposium theme, Textiles & Politics is surely present throughout this show.
Here are share some of the things I noticed on viewing it. The exhibition is part of a centenary celebration honoring Amerigo Vespucci (Florence, 1454-Seville,1512). The four Vespucci expeditions (1497-1504) were intended to find faster commercial routes to prime luxury resources (gold, spices, silk, wool, and precious gems):
The Indies. His family belonged to the Florentine banking and textile merchant oligarchy controlled by the Medici. Amerigo first worked in the Portuguese

  and Spanish Medici branch offices, but, was then hired by the Spanish crown to provision and navigate the state galleons. By a quirk of fate, his name was given to the New World, rather than that of Christopher Columbus or Giovanni da Verrazzano. A German cartographer, Martin Waldseemuller, had received second-hand information concerning Amerigo Vespucci’s letters and named the area "America" for Amerigo on his 1507 Map!
Times have not changed. Italian merchants are still seeking new far-away markets to sell their luxury fashions and goods, whether it’s China, Africa, or Brazil. We are now living at a crucial time. Politically, the generational transition which occurred within Native American tribes from the 1870s land-tenure treaties to their Euro-American “education and acculturation,” closely parallels the present time, in which the European Community is seeking to become ‘the United States of Europe.’ Even now there is an overwhelming global fusion accelerated by the internet. And where might the next “new” frontier be—outer space travel?
Clothing is a marker of belonging to a “global tribe.” Italian fashion stylists and designers immediately raided the New Frontier show! The wonderfully soft deerskin boots in the exhibition have already become coveted
  fashion objects. In fact, one of the 2013 trends at the recent Florence Pitti Fashion and Textile trade shows ran along the same lines as this exhibition: vibrant colors, concha belts, beading, silver jewelry, and moccasins. The 1970s Western-look is already being produced and sold as high-priced fashion.
That is something to ponder. It seems to me that this exhibition has turned the tables around: the “New World” is being re-discovered by the “Old World,” thanks to the vast Native Americana collections of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, founded in 1949 by the Oklahoma oil magnate, Thomas Gilcrease (1890-1962), who is of Muskogee (Creek) heritage.
Lorenzo di' Medici and Thomas Gilcrease would certainly have understood each other. Both were astute businessmen. Both shared an overwhelming desire to collect objects of beauty and were highly aware of the historical past that they represented:
they were patrons of the arts who persevered in spending great sums to amass incomparable collections. - Rosalia Bonito Fanelli

home content Last revised 12 October, 2012