Who is Wearing Silk in Florentine Paintings (14th-16th centuries)?
Since 2010, Cecilie Hollberg has been a museum director, first at the Städtisches Museum Braunschweig, and then at the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence. She holds a PhD in Medieval History from Göttingen, Germany, and started her museum career at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, designing and contributing to international exhibitions on subjects from the fourteenth to the twenty-first century. Her research focuses mainly on the history of Italy and the hunt. She is the author of Deutsche in Venedig im späten Mittelalter. Eine Untersuchung von Testamenten aus dem 15. Jahrhundert, as well as articles on merchants and commerce in Venice in the fifteenth century. As Director of the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (since 2015) she also developed the concept and curated the 2017 exhibition Textile and Wealth in Fourteenth-century Florence. Wool, Silk, Painting (2017).
Textile and Wealth in Fourteenth-century Florence. Wool, Silk, Painting was the title of an exhibition at the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (2017), organized around paintings in the museum’s own collection. The fourteenth century was the beginning of many important developments and considerations regarding textiles, markets, money, and artworks. Florence was able to finance the Renaissance with enormous sums gained by the trade of textiles: starting with wool and adding silk at the end of the fourteenth century. First, the Florentine merchants began dealing in imported and expensive oriental silks. In the 1400s, they were able to produce silk by themselves. Florence entrepreneurs gained incredible amounts of money with the export of textiles and from 1400 onward, the merchants could almost ‘buy’ everything, i.e.: artists, paintings, sculptures, buildings. We have to look beyond the paintings to better understand and answer the following questions: Who is represented in the paintings, altars, and frescoes in Florentine churches? What did the artists choose not to paint and why? On the altars, just a few holy people are wearing silk with ornamental patterns: Jesus, Mary, and specific saints. Only some later paintings or frescoes also show lay people (such as the Capella Brancacci, Santa Maria Novella). Who are they and why and how are they depicted? Is there a connection to the beginning of portraiture? These questions will be addressed in the upcoming study.