A story of silk in Venice

Rubelli. A story of silk in Venice
By Irene Favaretto

“I’ll tell you a Venetian story spanning two centuries. Five generations, six brands, five continents: our history, yesterday, today and tomorrow.”
Alessandro Favaretto Rubelli

A graphic representation of the San Marco silk damask forms the cover of the magnificent book published by Marsilio, “Rubelli. Una storia di seta a Venezia” (pp. 220, € 58), which traces the fortunes of the textile creations of the Rubelli family worldwide. The company came into being at the end of the nineteenth century when Lorenzo Rubelli took over Giobatta Trapolin’s firm, renowned for its production of braid, two-pile velvet, soprarizzo, lampas and brocade as reproductions of antique fabrics. Lorenzo Rubelli bought the firm in 1889 and it was an instant success.

The book tells the story of Lorenzo and his son Dante Zeno, how they expanded the production and trade of fabrics in Italy and Europe, and the varying fortunes of the Venice firm which, during the First World War, forced Dante Zeno to move looms and workforce to Florence to protect their safety. Production was diversified over the years, moving towards a more contemporary style yet without ever abandoning the themes which had made Venetian textiles famous over the centuries. Rubelli worked with eclectic artists such as Guido Cadorin and Umberto Bellotto and later Vittorio Zecchin and Gio Ponti. The company’s fabrics were displayed with success first at the various International Decorative Arts Exhibitions at the Villa Reale in Monza and later at the Venice Biennale and Milan Triennale, and were also used for high-status commissions, such as the furnishing of the royal train in 1928.

After the Second World War Alessandro Favaretto Rubelli took over from his grandfather Dante Zeno and started to edit an own Rubelli collection, introducing a distinctive style. The hand-loomed velvet was chosen by famous names in fashion such as Roberta di Camerino, who used them to create the label’s exclusive bags (there is a famous picture of Princess Grace of Monaco from 1958, on an official visit to Venice, with the legendary Bagonghi bag).

From the historic Venice location of Palazzo Corner Spinelli Alessandro Favaretto Rubelli conquered not only Europe but also the US and the emerging Asian markets. With the extraordinary quality of the damask, silk and velvet produced in its own weaving mills, Rubelli became one of the four most prestigious companies in its field.

Irene Favaretto, narrator, was formerly a full professor of the history of archaeology at the University of Padua, where from 2002 to 2009 she was vice-chancellor with responsibility for the university’s historic and artistic property. Sister of Alessandro Favaretto Rubelli and aunt of Matilde, Lorenzo, Nicolò and Andrea. She is a Procuratore di San Marco, working partner of the Veneto Institute of Science, Literature and Art, board member of the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, correspondent member of the Deputazione di Storia Patria for the Venezie and member of the Ateneo Veneto. She is also the author of almost two hundred publications on subjects relating to Greek and Roman art, the history of collections of antiquities and the tradition of classical art in the art and culture of the Veneto region. She deals above all with publishing work for the Procuratoria di San Marco.


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