To see true Venetian craftsmanship at its finest, look no further than the Bevilacqua Textile Workshop in Santa Croce, where some of the world’s most beautiful and desirable fabrics have been produced for more than two hundred years.
Venice’s history as the hub of the luxury cloth trade dates as far back as the thirteenth century, when the city’s maritime traders began importing raw silk from the east.
By the sixteenth century, silk production was one of Venice’s most important industries, with around 30,000 residents involved in the trade. When Napoleon invaded in 1797, however, he closed the historic mills to reduce competition with France’s silk industry, and today the only firm that still produces woven silk and velvet in the traditional way is the Luigi Bevilacqua Company, which is owned and run by a family that can trace its weaving lineage back to the 1400s.
Entering the workshop is like stepping back in time; a dimly-lit building tightly-packed with enormous 18th century wooden looms that originally belonged to the Silk Weaving School of the Republic of Venice. Here, a small team of highly-trained female weavers work away intensively, using acute concentration and painstaking skill to manipulate the thousands of brightly coloured threads that criss-cross the looms. The resulting textiles, some of which are displayed in the showroom at the back of the workshop, are exquisite, and it is hardly surprising to learn that Bevilacqua has created textiles for clients ranging from the White House to the Royal Palace of Kuwait, Dolce & Gabbana and the Vatican. For an even fuller range of Bevilacqua’s products, including sumptuous fringed cushions, richly coloured tassels and gilt-embroidered wall-hangings, head to the company’s boutique in Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, where brothers Gianluca and Emmanuele Bevilacqua can provide further insights into the unique and precious Venetian tradition that their family continues to uphold.
DON’T MISS: ‘Rita Kernn-Larsen: Surrealist Paintings’ at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection until 26 June 2017
This gem of an exhibition is highly recommended as an introduction to the work of Danish Surrealist artist Rita Kernn-Larsen (1904-1998), whom Peggy Guggenheim met in Paris in 1937. Featuring a tightly-curated selection of works that evoke a combination of memories and dreams, the exhibition sheds light on how – in the Surrealist vein – Kernn-Larsen used an automatic painting method, aiming to generate a flow of images arising from deep within the subconscious. Although Kernn-Larsen was one of the most noteworthy female members of the Surrealist movement, to this day she remains little-known; this is the first important presentation of her Surrealist work outside of her native Scandinavia since her one-woman exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s London gallery in 1938.