Museo di Palazzo d’Arco
Piazza Carlo D'Arco 4
46100 Mantova (MN)
The Spirit of Things - Silver of the Counts of Arco
Until 30th November 2019
At the Palazzo d'Arco in Mantua the silverware, jealously guarded as a family treasure to be passed on from generation to generation, returns the memories of the lively past and reveals among its reflections.
Promoted by the Fondazione d'Arco and curated by Francesca Rapposelli, the exhibition, is under the patronage of the Municipality of Mantua. The exhibition is an opportunity to admire the rich collection of silver and precious metals of the Counts of Arco; Massive cutlery sets and services, graceful feminine accessories and masculine refinements chase each other in a lively narrative path of noble customs between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the name of elegance and style.
At Palazzo d'Arco there is a substantial nucleus of silver and precious objects that have never been exhibited to the public, which allows us to reconstruct what must have been the habits of everyday life in the spaces of a noble residence. The collection dates back mainly to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the decorative arts had a predominant role and the precious objects which surrounded the aristocracy interacted with the environments.
To reconstruct the past of these works services have been reassembled, the coats of arms and monograms have been identified and the punches impressed on the silvers have been analyzed, making a study on all the specimens. Groups of German, English and French silver have emerged, giving an international character to the collection and among the national factories an extraordinary group of Milanese works that transmit memories of important historical events stood out.
The rich set of silverware becomes the eloquent testimony of a sparkling universe that was poured from the laid table into all domestic environments. Objects that at that time associated a representative task with the functional one of everyday objects, reflecting the changing needs of the client. Silver, therefore, present in the aristocratic life of every day, marked by worldly receptions that alternated with the most intimate moments of the cuddly female salons or accompanied the love for writing in the domestic walls. Valuable, at the same time, which characterized the typically male pastimes in the fumes, or the more informal meals upon returning from hunting, offering an illuminating demonstration of noble customs.
During the exhibition, the services will take up residence on the tables and in the living rooms, reviving those objects and making them conform to the original context, as only a house-museum can still offer. The evocative nature of the museum has paved the way for multiple stories of the family's daily life based on solid scientific research conducted in the archives of the dwelling. The contemporary English proposals of the living museum find their fulfillment here, combining the aims of education and pleasure.
The different types of the ancient furnishings of the Palace have articulated the route of the exhibition in five sections:
1) Tableware by Emanuele Caber and Giuseppe Brusa
Among the extraordinary collection of precious objects that belonged to the counts of Arc, there is a copious nucleus of table silver representing the Milanese production of the second decade of the nineteenth century. The works of Emanuele Caber and Giuseppe Brusa, the most prominent Milanese silversmiths of the city, will be exhibited in the Sala degli Antenati, where the wealth and ancient origins of the family documented by the dynastic paintings justified the exhibition of the silverware of the house during the official ceremonies .
2) The objects of the charming female rituals
Master of the House of Arc, between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, were Matilde di Canossa (1744 -?) Who in 1762 married the count Gianbattista Gherardo, Amalia Sanvitale (1770-1846), lady of the count Francesco Alberto, and Giovanna de ' Capitani d'Arzago (1813-1870) consort of Count Luigi. All were women with a strong personality and not just in the home. The precious silver pieces of the Arco collection linked to the dressing table and the intimate female living room can be traced back to these noble figures as well as to the last descendant of Arco, Countess Giovanna Marchesa Guidi di Bagno.
According to the customs of the time, the environment of the female toilet had to follow a very precise arrangement of the furniture in which the shelf on which the necessary accessories for beauty rituals were placed was of fundamental importance. Starting from the XVIII century the time of the toilet had also become that of breakfast. In this context there is the core of Mantuan silverware with works by Giovanni Bellavite and Francesco Rizzardi combined with the French factories of Francois Diosne, Luis Bruneau and Charles Murat.
3) The smoking casa d'Arco
The spread of smoking in nineteenth-century Italy can be traced back to a wider observance of the rules of aristocratic sociability, which saw the reference model in the French salon. In a context of rigid social separation, female conversation rooms were thus distinguished, in which the landlady played a central role, and moments of exclusively male aggregation, such as clubs, cafes or, in fact, the fumes.
Tobacco creates a model of custom and its use generates an unlimited production of smoking objects: pipes, snuffboxes, cigar cases and cigarette cases, a craft repertoire often of great taste and refinement that legitimizes and contributes, in turn, to the spread and the consumption of tobacco itself.
Silver snuffboxes that not only had a practical function, but above all an aesthetic and self-celebratory function, fitting into a much broader context of etiquette, of savoir faire: donated as a token of love or as a diplomatic homage, used in real social rituals, they became the reflection of fashions and tastes over the centuries.
Precisely in this boundless and eclectic market we find the English silvers by WT Wright and F. Davies, French and German exhibited in the Red Room of the Palazzo d'Arco and an interesting nucleus of Hanau manufactures.
4) The Bon Ton at the desk
There is no more intimate space than writing, where the writing service becomes a sign of distinction for those who produce it and those who use it; and it is through the letters that the most beautiful and intense pages of history are revived.
The writing desks of Joan of Arc and of her father Francesco Antonio jealously guard many sheets, still virgin, together with all those writing objects, so full of signs, which for the romantics translate into a universe of sensations: the gleams of silver and the purity of the mother-of-pearl, the indelible stain of the bistro and cuttlefish black, the cobalt blue of the dust and the smell of melted wax, the precious one, which melted on the envelopes, preserved the secrets from the gossips, and that of Sevo, who dripped on lies. In the ancient Library of the Palace, the services and furnishings of the family's desk will be displayed.
5) Victorian Brunch
In the Sala delle Carte da Parati of 1823, the tables in the living room will be furnished with the silverware necessary for the perfect English brunch. The dawn of brunch is to be found in the Breakfast Hunts, the traditional hunting breakfasts: a convivial moment that included a generous and restorative meal for the gentlemen who gathered after the practice of the art of hunting.
A passion for hunting and thoroughbreds that is certainly not lacking in the house of Arco and above all in the figure of Count Francesco Antonio (1848-1917). The ancient library of the palace houses a very rich collection of hippology which includes more than two hundred volumes, some precious sixteenth-century books and specialized magazines. The Conte d'Arco was an attentive collector and customer of fine English table silver by J. Grinsell, Oreste Franzi, T&J Creswick and French, as evidenced by the fine coffee and chocolate service produced by the Christofle company.
Opening hours: Monday 9.30-13.00; Tuesday 14.30-18.00; from Wednesday to Sunday 9.30-13.00 / 14.30-18.00
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