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Whimsy and Reason. Elegance in Eighteenth-Century Europe

Start Date 14 May 2017
End Date 29 April 2018
Venue Museo del Tessuto
Location Prato, Italy

Staged in the museum’s historical textiles room, the exhibition is a journey into the style and trends of eighteenth-century artistic culture, through fashion, textiles and the decorative arts. 

Over 100 exhibits, including textiles, men’s and women’s garments, porcelain, fashion accessories, paintings and etchings, narrate the stylistic changes which unfolded during this historical period, from exoticism and compositional “whimsies,” in the first half of the century, to the austere classical forms of neoclassical decoration. Textiles are juxtaposed with the most diverse types of artefacts and artistic techniques in order to grant visitors a complete overview of styles throughout the century, with examples of eighteenth century textile production such as bizarre, chinoiserie, dentelles and revel, just to name a few, thus creating an ongoing dialogue between garments and fashion accessories, as well as with other furnishing elements. 

The exhibition has been made possible thanks to the prestigious collaboration of the Uffizi Gallery’s Costume Gallery, the Stibbert Museum in Florence and the Antonio Ratti Foundation’s Textile Studio Museum in Como, as well as other public and private institutions which have allowed for the organisation of a unique and innovative exhibition exploring the eighteenth century, a rich and complex period. 

In addition to the textiles in our collections, the extraordinary garments from the Uffizi Gallery’s Costume Gallery and rare silk specimens from the Antonio Ratti Foundation’s Textile Studio Museum in Como converse with the precious waistcoats and fine porcelain from the treasure trove that is the Stibbert Museum in Florence. Volumes from the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence enrich the exhibition, as well as period footwear from Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, paintings from the Palazzo Pretorio Museum in Prato and from the antique Florentine galleries, Eredi Antonio Esposito – Antique Gallery, the Giovanni Pratesi Collection and Tornabuoni Arte. 

ESTRA is the major sponsor of the initiative, a Tuscan holding company which is one of the top ten industrial groups supplying electricity within Italy.