Washington, D.C. --- A new exhibition at the Italian Embassy, Fabriano 1264, examines the important role papermaking has played in western history. This exhibition celebrates the 750th anniversary of papermaking in Fabriano, a city in the Marche region of Italy, legendary for its paper production.
While history has told us much about the printing press, the history of papermaking is just as important to tell.
During past ages, writings on animal skins or plant materials had a more limited lifespan than paper, requiring that the documents be periodically re-transcribed years later or risk extinction. Improvements in papermaking created a longer lasting document, an important aspect of western life.
During the 13th century, Fabriano became one of the best known papermaking centers in Europe, if not the world. That was even before Columbus discovered America! Today, Fabriano paper is legendary for its use not only in documents, but also for its intricate and historical watermarks, engravings and other artwork.
Italian Ambassador, H.E. Claudio Bisogniero, called Fabriano “the cradle of western papermaking.” Records show that as early as 750 years ago, he noted, paper was used in Fabriano. Incredibly, some items on display in this exhibition date back to the 1300s.
Not only does this exhibition feature some interesting and spectacular examples of ancient paper dating back to the 14th century, but also recent works of art by both American and Italian artists who use Fabriano paper.
“We recognize and celebrate what has always been one of Italy’s areas of excellence and whose legacy has endured through the centuries to the present day,” Ambassador Bisogniero stated. Fabriano, besides giving birth to some great artists, he noted, was the “true epitome” of high quality paper.
Fabriano is one of two Italian cities to have been recognized by UNESCO in the Creative Cities Network. Fabriano has been recently honored as a City of Crafts and Folks Arts in that network.
In a masterful way, Ambassador Bisogniero notes, Fabriano paper combines not only centuries of tradition, but it does so with sophistication and innovation as paper is produced successfully today in factories of Fabriano.
He said the result of this “magic combination between tradition and technology and innovation continues to be a source of inspiration for many artists today as can be seen by the… various works of art on display [at this exhibition].”
Fabriano holds another distinction for the ambassador. He said his wife was born there! “As you can imagine, I hear a lot about Fabriano at home,” he jokingly told those attending the exhibition opening.
The exhibition includes a selection of watermarks from 1301 to today. A section of the exhibition is dedicated to the relationship between paper and art through the comparison of Italian and American contemporary artists.
The Italian artists in the exhibition are: Luigi Bartolini of Cupramontana, an artist, poet and writer, considered one of the most eclectic figures of 20th century Italian culture, is present with two works, including the engraving dedicated to daughter Luciana which in 1932 shared first prize with Giorgio Morandi at the Italian Etchings Show at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence; Guerrino Lovato of Venice, whose stucco and paper works embellish the majestic La Fenice theater in Venice; Italian-American Roberto Mannino; Angela Occhipinti, formerly of the Brera Accademia di Belle Arti; and two Fabriano artists,Anna Unicini and Sirio Bellucci, nominated by the InArte Cultural Association of Fabriano.
A special place in this exhibition has been dedicated to Roberto Stelluti, an internationally renowned Fabriano artist and a descendant of Francesco Stelluti, famed friend of Galileo Galilei, and co-founder of the Accademia dei Lincei, the oldest academy of sciences in the world. On display are four of his engravings and the original of the sonnet written by Francesco, In lode della carta [in praise of paper] from his Persio, printed in 1630, which is considered to this day one of the most significant tributes to the importance of Fabriano’s papermaking tradition.
The six American artists whose works have been chosen for the exhibition are: Nancy Cohen and Joan Hall, noted for their large-scale paper installations; Mary Hark and her special multicolored surfaces;Michelle Samour creator of installations using brilliant, translucent papers; Patterson Clark, who researches plant sources for fibers and colors; Lynn Sures, polyhedric artist and teacher at the Corcoran College of Art and Design for more than 10 years, who serves as the ‘ambassador’ of Fabriano paper in the United States for her valued collaboration with the Fabriano Museum of Paper and Watermarks established in Washington in 2002.
By blending tradition, innovation and bringing artists from both sides of the Atlantic, this project embraces the core spirit of 2013, the Year of Italian Culture in the United States. The embassy and its partners have shared an incredible wealth of Italian history and culture with Americans in the fields of science, art, cinema, theater, design and various other aspects of Italian creativity during 2013. Ambassador Bisogniero says more events are still to come. Visit this website for information.
The exhibition remains at the Embassy of Italy, 3000 Whitehaven Street NW, through Dec. 20 by appointment only. Please see the Italian Cultural Institute in Washington website for details on this and other events.
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