Umbria, beginning of the fifteenth century
The fifteenth century is characterized by an intense cultural activity. In this period Leon Battista Alberti, the new man of the Renaissance, was born, followed, about fifty years later, by Leonardo da Vinci. It is also in these years that, in Holland, windmills were developed, used not to mill wheat, but to dry out large portions of the country that were constantly flooded by the tides.

In Umbria, the textile tradition is already established with the production of the TABLECLOTHS FROM PERUGIA, woven, according to an undocumented source, by the Confraternita della Mercanzia of Perugia, established in 1380. The weaving and use of these objects were at first exclusively aristocratic, while later they were also used by the middle and lower classes, besides being extensively present inside the convents.

In the internal court of the inn, two important figures, seated at a table, are chatting, while a servant is coming with a tray covered with a fragment of this Umbrian fabric.

Clothes aside, the scene could easily be repeated in the quiet Umbrian landscape today.

  • The representation of many animal species represented in Umbrian tablecloths, such as drakes, sirens, rampant or walking griffons, birds of several different species, among them peacocks and eagles, the lion with one or two tails, highlight a clear Middle East origin of the motives, probably Persian. (M.L. Buseghin, La Seta, Bollettino Ufficiale, Stazione sperimentale per la seta, anno 56 N. 1, Milan, 2005, pp. 87-88).

  • An undocumented tradition has it that the tablecloths from Perugia had been woven by the Confraternita della Mercanzia of Perugia, founded circa 1380, and from the Umbrian capital these objects spread over other Umbrian areas and in other Italian regions. (M.L. Buseghin, M. Masci, A. Morosini, G. Nagni, Antichi Tessuti Umbri, Tovaglie "da mensa" dalla collezione Morosini, Spoleto, 1998, p.9).

  • The tablecloths from Perugia have been represented in paintings and in wood sculptures created by many artists in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance: Pinturicchio in his Presepio in Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, Perugino in the Nativity and in the Cenacolo di Foligno dated 1495, Ghirlandaio in his Ultima Cena, Leonardo in the Ultima Cena in Milan, Giotto in the Nozze di Cana in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. (M.L. Buseghin, M. Masci, A. Morosini, G. Nagni, Antichi Tessuti Umbri, Tovaglie "da mensa" dalla collezione Morosini, Spoleto, 1908, p.12).

  • In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the tablecloths from Perugia reached their moment of maximum splendour; among those preserved in the private collection of Professor Mariano Rocchi there are some presenting very peculiar decorative motives, such as upside down letters, for instance "Eroma" (love) or mirrored figures, as if they were reflected in water. (See: U. Gnoli, L'arte umbra alla Mostra di Perugia, Bergamo, 1908, p. 83).

  • Classic mythology celebrates spinning and weaving with some examples: the three Parcae “the goddesses of the fate that braided the thread of the days of the mortals”, the goddess Minerva, an expert weaver challenged and defeated by Arachne in a weaving ability contest and we cannot forget Penelope, keeping the Proci at bay with the deception of the cloth woven during the day and unravelled during the night (M.L. Buseghin, G. Nagni (edited by), La Fenice tradizione e innovazione nel tessile Umbro, Perugia, 2001, p.91).

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