Busatti, fine Italian textiles

images

What does it take to become a member of the Italian Historical Businesses Union? (the UISI in Italian: Unione Imprese Storiche Italiane)?  This art association was begun in Florence and allows as members only companies that make items of great Italian tradition and excellence and have been owned by the same family for more than 150 years.

busatti-mood-board-fileminimizer

The Busatti company, producers of fine Italian textiles, is a proud member.

I recently visited the Busatti showroom in the Oltrarno section of Florence.  I’d been hunting for some of the beautiful cotton towels known as nido d’api (bee’s nest) in Italian, or waffle weave in English.  This fine company had the towels I was hunting, in a beautiful array of hues.  I chose the color I call “French blue, ” even though these are obviously Italian made!

1492036422806

Since 1842 the Busatti family has been weaving textiles in the cellars of the Palazzo Morgalanti in Anghiari, a Tuscan village.  The company can actually trace it’s ancestry further back than that: they had the first machines in Italy that could card wool in the late 18th century. When Napoleon invaded, his troops started producing uniforms for the Grande Armee in Anghiari.  To dye them the blue they wanted, they restarted cultivating a flower known in Italian as guado.  This is “woad” in English, a yellow-flowered European plant of the cabbage family. It was once widely grown, especially in Britain, as a source of blue dye, which was extracted from the leaves after they had been dried, powdered, and fermented.

In 1842 Busatti established itself as a producer of fine cotton textiles, using steam-powered machinery.  In the 1930s, the electric versions of the same looms were first utilized.  It was in the 1930s that the company acquired its current structure and look.

Busatti is still synonymous with quality and tradition, but also of innovation.  They can customize any of their production of tablecloths, draperies and toweling, and can make use of their exclusive embroideries when desired.

The Busatti business can trace its unique history starting with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (Gran Ducato di Toscana), the contribution to Italian unification with a Garibaldi family member, through 2 World Wars and many economic crises. Fortunately, the company just keeps chugging along in Anghiari. As you wind through wooded hills to visit the ancient, walled town, it seems that nothing has changed there for hundreds of years. The illusion persists in the vaulted 16th-century showrooms of Busatti (www.busatti.com), where linens are still woven on 19th- and early-20th-century looms.

Clients include Miuccia Prada and Valentino, who order made-to-measure table sets in linen and cotton and me, who chooses ready-made, but still gorgeous, towel sets.

 

The “antique camellias” in Lucca, Italy

For years I’ve wanted to experience the festival of the Antiche Camelie della Lucchesia, but fate had other ideas.  However, this year, I prevailed.  And it was soooooo worth the wait!!

 

 

On a beautiful Sunday at the end of March, my good friend and I went on a mission to find the blooming camellia festival or die trying.  Fortunately, she found it without any problem.  She is a very smart cookie, that one.

 

Here are some of the fruits of our labor:

IMG_6224IMG_6221

 

IMG_6226fullsizeoutput_deb

IMG_6204

IMG_6229IMG_6230IMG_6231fullsizeoutput_decIMG_6234IMG_6235IMG_6236IMG_6238IMG_6239fullsizeoutput_defIMG_6242

fullsizeoutput_ded

IMG_6264

IMG_6266

fullsizeoutput_e1afullsizeoutput_e16fullsizeoutput_e13

fullsizeoutput_e15fullsizeoutput_e18fullsizeoutput_e1efullsizeoutput_e19fullsizeoutput_e1dfullsizeoutput_e1ffullsizeoutput_e20fullsizeoutput_e21fullsizeoutput_e22fullsizeoutput_e23fullsizeoutput_e24

 

And of course I brought home a beautiful white specimen with a gorgeous name to grow on my Tuscan terrace:

fullsizeoutput_e33

 

 

Fra Fillipo Lippi fresco cycle in Prato duomo; Prato cathedral Part 2

Late last week I had the great pleasure of visiting Prato with a new friend who was born and raised there.  There is nothing like visiting a lovely small Italian town with someone who knows their way around.  My friend showed me things I would have found on my own!

IMG_5897

IMG_5951

I wrote a post on the Duomo of Prato, where I discussed the architecture and sculpture.  The Duomo is such a rich repository of masterworks that it needs several posts.  Today I will deal only with the Far Fillips Lippi frescoes created between 1452-66.

Let’s start with this basic premise: these paintings are gorgeous and in excellent condition!  I have waited an art historian’s lifetime to see them and they did to disappoint.

This is the apse end of the basilica in all of its glory.  The Far Fillipo Lippi frescoes are in the chapel in the center:

00view0

These frescoes show the master, Fra Filippo Lippi, at his finest. They were produced slowly and sporadically between 1452 and 1466.

The enormous scale of the choir, and consequently the painted subjects, were a far cry from the intimacy of the Brancacci Chapel.  The cycle has been restored recently, revealing powerful yet sensitive images produced with verve and facility during a late period in Lippi’s development.

The Prato frescoes were both an artistic and a physical challenge for the aging painter, and, particularly in the large scenes on either side of the choir with stories of St John the Baptist and St Stephen, scholars believe that a significant share of the execution may be attributed to workshop assistants.

Below: View of the chapel filled with the fresco cycle

00view0

00view

 

South Wall

Below: overview of the right (south) wall of the main chapel

00view2

Beginning at top, coming down, we begin with “The Birth and Naming St John”

21birth

The Birth and Naming St John (detail)

21birth1

 

The 2nd fresco down from the top: “St. John Taking Leave of His Parents”

22leave

St. John Taking Leave of his Parents (detail)

22leave1

St. John Taking Leave of His Parents (detail)

22leave3

Third scene down from the top: Herod’s Banquet

23herod

Herod’s Banquet (detail)

23herod0

Herod’s Banquet (detail)

23herod1

Herod’s Banquet (detail)

23herod2

Herod’s Banquet (detail)

23herod3

 

Herod’s Banquet (detail)

23herod4

 

The Beheading of John the Baptist, scene to the far left of the main fresco

24behead

 

North Wall:

View of the left (north) wall of the main chapel

00view1

 

Beginning at top of fresco on North wall: St Stephen is Born and Replaced by Another Child

11birth

St Stephen is Born and Replaced by Another Child (detail)

11birth0

St Stephen is Born and Replaced by Another Child (detail)

11birth2

2nd Fresco down from top, The Disputation in the Synagogue

12dispu

The Disputation in the Synagogue (detail)

12dispu1

The Disputation in the Synagogue (detail)

12dispu2

The Disputation in the Synagogue (detail)

12dispu3

The  Disputation in the Synagogue (detail)

12dispu4

Third fresco down from the top: The Funeral of St Stephen

13funer

 

The Funeral of St Stephen (detail)

13funer1

The Funeral of St Stephen (detail)

13funer2

The Funeral of St Stephen (detail)

13funer3

The Funeral of St Stephen (detail)

13funer4

The Funeral of St Stephen (detail)

13funer5

Scene to the far right of the main fresco: The Martyrdom of St Stephen

14martyr

St Alberto of Trapani

15albert

St Alberto of Trapani

15alberx

Allora, I have shown you the main paintings within this fresco cycle and explained the location.  Now let me simply share the pictures I took with my phone.  My phone was never pointed at anything more beautiful…and that is saying something!

IMG_5854IMG_5855IMG_5856IMG_5857IMG_5858IMG_5859IMG_5860IMG_5861IMG_5862IMG_5864IMG_5865IMG_5866IMG_5839IMG_5840IMG_5841IMG_5867

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_5868IMG_5869IMG_5870

A short note on Pietrasanta and the artist Romano Cosci

Yesterday I had the chance to see the Carnevale parade in Pietrasanta.  I want to add a short note on the town itself.

IMG_5528

 

Above and below are picture of Pietrosanta’s duomo.  A service was ongoing when I stopped inside.  It is actually a pretty rare event that I find a service going on in the many churches I visit throughout this country. Who’d a thunk it?

It was nice to observe.  And, il duomo is quite wonderful, filled with interesting paintings and sculptures.

IMG_5529IMG_5530IMG_5531IMG_5532

As ever, the simple local bars serve cappuccino to die for.  Starbucks, eat your heart out.

IMG_5533

 

IMG_5525IMG_5526IMG_5527

 

The deconsecrated church of Sant’ Agostino today serves Pietrasanta and environs as a beautiful exhibition space for local artists.  I first had the pleasure of joining my dear friend, Grayce Murabito and her friend, the actor Eddie Albert (was in Roman Holiday), in viewing an exhibition there about 35 years ago.  I hadn’t been back until yesterday.  Somewhere I have photos of lovely Grayce standing in front of the sign advertising the exhibition of her husband’s works: the painter and sculptor, Rosario Murabito.

(The church itself is fascinating: Built in the 14th century, it was annexed to the convent and the ospedale dei Mercanti. The façade recalls architectural and sculptural decoration of the Cathedral of San Martino di Lucca. There are numerous tombstones on the floor and sections of fresco cycles from the 14th-15th centuries. The former church was deconsecrated before the mid 1980s, and has subsequently been used for temporary exhibitions, especially in the summer months. For information you can contact the “Russo” cultural center, in via sant’Agostino 1, call 0584.795500 or visit the website http://www.museodeibozzetti.it. See also www.comune.pietrasanta.lu.it and official page http://www.facebook.com/comunedi.pietrasanta?fref=ts )

IMG_5567

 

Romano Cosci, painter and sculptor, was born near Lucca in 1939. He was trained in the fifties in the stimulating atmosphere of the sculpture workshops and the art foundries of Pietrasanta (where he worked and lived) under the guidance of artists – prestigious artisans like Leonida Parma and Ferruccio Vezzoni and had as a teacher and friend Pietro Annigoni. Until 1986 he taught pictorial disciplines in the artistic high schools of Carrara and Grosseto. His work, with equal parts of talent and poetry, make use of an extraordinary range of expressive media, passing through fresco, marble, bronze, terracotta, mosaic and every other kind of 2-d design.  He died in 2014.

 

 

IMG_5552IMG_5553IMG_5554IMG_5555IMG_5556IMG_5557IMG_5558IMG_5559IMG_5560IMG_5561

fullsizeoutput_cac

IMG_5562IMG_5563IMG_5564IMG_5566

 

A couple other views of lovely Pietrasanta:

IMG_5568IMG_5569IMG_5551

Go get truffled! San Miniato, Tuscany

Want to see a darling hill town in Tuscany?  Then head for the hills! Get yourself to San Miniato, a very lively and attractive hill town near Pisa, famous for the white truffles found in the surrounding area.

Want to see truffles? The famous tartufo aren’t very pretty, but oh my goodness, do they taste good in Italian cuisine! Here’s a basket full of them:

fullsizeoutput_61bfullsizeoutput_626fullsizeoutput_625

I visited San Miniato yesterday, 17 November, during the annual truffle sagra held by the town.  Fall has definitely arrived in Tuscany and it was cold and overcast.  It almost makes me wistful about the heat of last July.  Almost. The next 2 pictures capture the weather as well as the beautiful vistas as seen from San Miniato of the beautiful Valdarno.

fullsizeoutput_62bfullsizeoutput_62a

The truffle festival also features artiginale production of prosciutto, and there were lots of pork products on show, to taste, to purchase, and you could even buy specialized equipment for the home to slice the hams.  All shown below:

fullsizeoutput_622fullsizeoutput_61f

 

 

 

But the truffles are the raison d’être:  The festival San Miniato hosts every November is devoted to the gastronomically precious white truffle found locally. The white truffle is more highly valued than the black truffles found in Umbria and the Marche, and commands very high prices, reflected in the cost of restaurant dishes that incorporate truffles. In 1954 a record-breaking truffle found close to the nearby village of Balconevisi weighed in at 2,520 grams (5.56 lb) and was sent to the United States of America as a gift for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

But even if you aren’t a fan of truffles or hams, there is still much to enjoy about this little gem of a town. For example, there is a lovely church with important Quattrocento frescoes:

fullsizeoutput_635fullsizeoutput_634fullsizeoutput_633fullsizeoutput_632

 

The ceiling and upper sections of the basilica walls are painted with trompe’oeil marble architecture:

fullsizeoutput_630

fullsizeoutput_62f

 

And the town’s Duomo has a simple Tuscan facade which doesn’t prepare you for the opulent interior filled with porphyry marble columns and a gorgeous, gold leafed ceiling:

fullsizeoutput_61dfullsizeoutput_61c
The Duomo is dedicated to both Sant’ Assunta and Santo Genesio of Rome. It was originally a Romanesque building, but it has been remodelled several times and exhibits Gothic and some Renaissance arcchitectural elements. The façade incorporates a number of colorful majolica bowls. The interior has Latin cross plan with a central nave with two side aisles. The cathedral’s campanile, a fortification annexed in is called the Matilde Tower and features an asymmetrical clock. Very charming.

In medieval times, San Miniato was on the via Francigena, or the main connecting route between northern Europe and Rome. It also sits at the intersection of the Florence-Pisa and the Lucca-Siena roads. Over the centuries San Miniato was therefore exposed to a constant flow of friendly and hostile armies, traders in all manner of goods and services, and other travelers and pilgrims from near and far.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the site of the city and surrounding area has been settled since at least the paleolithic era. It would have been well known to the Etruscans, and certainly to the Romans, for whom it was a military post called “Quarto.”

The first mention in historical documents is of a small village organized around a chapel dedicated to San Miniato built by the Lombards in 783. By the end of the 10th century, San Miniato boasted a sizeable population enclosed behind a moat and protected by a castle built by Otto I.

In 1116, the new imperial vicar for Tuscany, Rabodo, established himself at San Miniato, supplanting Florence as the center of government. The site came to be known as al Tedesco, since the imperial vicars, mostly German, ruled Tuscany from there until the 13th century.

During the late 13th-century and the entire-14th century, San Miniato was drawn into the ongoing conflict between the Ghibelline and Guelph forces. Initially Ghibelline, it had become a Guelph city by 1291, allied with Florence and, in 1307, fought with other members of the Guelph league against the Ghibelline Arezzo.

By 1347 San Miniato was under Florentine control, where it remained, but for a brief period from 1367-1370 when, instigated by Pisa, it rebelled against Florence, and for another brief period between 1777 and 1779 during the Napoleonic conquest. It was still part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany when the Duchy was absorbed into the newly formed Kingdom of Italy in 1860.

The first walls, with defensive towers, were thrown up in the 12th century during the time that Italy was dominated by Frederick Barbarossa. Under his grandson, Frederick II, the town was further fortified with expanded walls and other defensive works, including the Rocca and its tower.

The city is enclosed within a well-preserved medieval precinct. Main landmarks include:

The Tower of Frederick, built by Frederick II in the 13th century on the summit of the hill at an elevation of 192 metres (630 ft), overlooking the entire Valdarno.

95478_la_torre_di_federico_secondo_san_miniato

 

I love the frescoes showing all the parts of the Italian peninsula in the corridors of the Vatican.  Interestingly enough, the tower and San Miniato is among them:

federico_II

During World War II the tower was destroyed by the German army to prevent the Allies from using it as a gun sighting tower, but was reconstructed in 1958 by architect Renato Baldi.
The remarkable Seminary, located in the central, unusually shaped Piazza della Repubblica, has a unique and spectacular set of frescos decorating the outside. as you can see in this photo and in my video taken yesterday:

san-miniato

 

 

san_miniato_view_10-11_0

 

If you can’t get to San Miniato yourself, at least you can enjoy this great Youtube video of the town filmed with the help of a drone.