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Caprice and Reason. The elegance in Eighteenth century’s Europe

Caprice and Reason. The elegance in Eighteenth century’s Europe

The allure of this extraordinarily innovative period is revived within the halls of the Museo del Tessuto (the Textile Production Museum) in Prato (Italy), thanks to a temporary exhibition from 14th of May 2017 to 29th April 2018. The exhibition is sponsored by the Museum Foundation in collaboration with the Costume and Fashion Museum of Uffizi Gallery (Florence), and in cooperation with the Stibbert Museum based in Florence, as well as the “Museo Studio del Tessuto”, property of the “Antonio Ratti” Foundation in Como. Set up within the Museum halls dedicated to antique textiles, the exhibition recalls the splendours of the European Royal Courts during the Eighteenth century. Among the hall cross vaults, sections of Tiepolo’s frescoes are designed to recreate the charm of the period’s painted ceilings. In addition, large mirrored surfaces contribute to create a particular game of effects that expands the exhibition space by exalting the exhibited items.


This exhibition’s excursus is based on the study of the Eighteenth century’s development of style and artistic culture, and it is divided into three essential sections. The first section of the Eighteenth century tells the textile production in a predominantly French taste. Inherited from the previous century, Rococo combines natural subjects with exotic elements, giving birth to the eccentric Bizarre, the naturalistic Revel, and the coy Dentelles styles. The fabrics and textiles coming from the “Antonio Ratti” Foundation, made in silk and metallic gold/silver threads, are particularly precious and suggestive.

The exhibition’s central section is dedicated to the rediscovery of Classical style. Neoclassicism was indeed born from a reaction to the Baroque’s and Rococo’s eccentric sumptuousness, and thanks to the period’s archaeological excavations in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Through a dialogue between Piranesi’s drawings and the cameo buttons produced by the British ceramic brand, Wedgwood, as well as the marvellous embroidery works on the men’s waistcoat from the late 1770s (coming from the Stibbert Museum), the “ancient Ruins” theme is developed to offer strong emotional suggestions.


The final section of the exhibition covers the latest years of Eighteenth century, characterized by lighter decorations. New colours emerge here among different textiles: white, pale pink, green water, azure, clear yellow in veiled tones. Fashion from this period is characterized by a change in the taste, getting closer and closer to the Neoclassical aesthetics.


The exhibition includes over 100 items among textiles, women clothing, shoes, porcelain, all telling the aesthetic development of the Eighteenth century, which was fundamental for the birth of the Modern Age. As a whole, the exhibition is focused on two antithetical concepts: the Caprice and the Reason. Both concepts cross and go through the entire century to define one of the most important design moments in the history of costume and fashion.

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