Colors in Venetian weaving: in San Rocco a tribute to the art of master dyers 

1 October 2021

Venice, September 30, 2021- The ancient art of dyers achieved its greatest development between the fifteenth and sixteenth century and it has been an important piece of Venetian industry. Is dedicated to them, and mainly to the “Luigi Bevilacqua” firm, the exhibition “Il colore delle tessiture veneziane” (Colors in Venetian weaving), hosted by the Scuola Grande di San Rocco to celebrate the 1600 year since the foundation of the city. From Sunday, October 3, until Saturday, October 16, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco- called the “Cappella Sistina” of Jacopo Tintoretto, son of the silk dyer Giovanni Battista- opens its doors to the public to plot out a story that deepens its roots back in the fourteenth century. By importing silks from the East, the Venetian manufacturing industry became famous for its weaving, a tradition that made Venice, during centuries, an important site of production of silks and velvets, requested by the most prestigious European courts. 

Precisely among the most famous manufacturing companies, we found the one founded by Luigi Bevilacqua, in 1875, who recovered looms and machinery formerly used by the Scuola della Seta della Serenissima (Silk School of the Serenissima Republic). It seems that the Bevilacqua family was present in the field of the textile art since 1400: there is evidence in paper material obtained from the Serenissima Republic, that members of the Bevilacqua family were named as “marzer”, “drapier”, “cimador” (drapers) and, since 1657, also appealed as “tintori” (dyers). 

Still today, in the Venetian headquarters of the weaving shop “Tessitura Bevilacqua” one of the finest fabrics, with a very complex manufacturing process, is produced: the soprarizzo velvet. We are talking about a particular velvet, typically hand-worked in Venice, made of two different types of pile: the curly one and the cut one. The cut velvet comes out to be higher than the curly velvet, that’s why the name “sopra-riccio” (literally pile-on-pile velvet). Starting from the same thread the two velvets reflect the light in different ways: the curly velvet, reflecting it, is lighter, while the cut velvet, absorbing it, is darker. This precious fabric requires a long and complex manual process, since only arranging the looms takes months and weavers produce about 30cm (11, 81 inches) of fabric per day. The exhibition will be open every day from 10.30AM to 12.30AM and from 3.30PM to 5.30PM. 

On Monday, October 11, and on Thursday, October 14, two meetings will be held to discuss the history of the Serenissima Republic: names and places linked to fabrics, and their trade, religion, and society, which are related to this multifaceted word. On Monday, Middle eastern names linked to fabrics and the history of merchants from all over Italy who converged in Venice, as well as ancient names linked to emperors and trade routes (as the silk road) will be discussed. A way of remembering Venice and its relevance in the history of the Eastern world. While on Thursday the discussion will be focused on the history of silk in Italian literature.