For three centuries, the Bevilacqua family has woven with pride and tenacity near Venice on its ancient Tessitura Luigi Bevilacqua’s manual wooden looms for silk and gold-thread. Since 1499, this family of artisans has been creating the same velvets, brocades and damasks which not only have provided wealth and prestige to Venice but allowed it to anchor a reputation of elegance that every country in the world looks up to.
The ancient Venetian art of weaving silk was radically declining in the 18th century due to Napoleon’s influence and the invention of Jacquard fabrics. Thus, the most artisanal of creations, velvet, and its talented weavers were doomed throughout the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century. Nonetheless, in 1875 Luigi Bevilacqua and his associate, Giovanni Battista Gianoglio, bought a recently abandoned weavers school on the Fondamenta San Lorenzo of the Sestiere Castello and transformed it into a new weaving mill. Thus, Bevilacqua started its success by resuming in the location where antique Italian fabrics had left off; by retrieving old, unused looms. The genesis of Bevilacqua, a business with a legacy of over three centuries, lies right in between crisis and rebirth. It carried on an art that was already considered ancient and disregarded by society and used its historical techniques with a touch of modernity to last for eternity.
Today, it is one of the only ancient textile fabric businesses that continue to weave with the same precious silk fabrics, soprarizzo velvets, garments made of gold, silver and silk threads, brocatelles, damasks and velvets.
Da Vinci- XVIII
"Velvet has a timeless charm thanks to its unique softness and vibrant colours. It's a fabric that requires a refined manufacturing process because its pile is obtained by an additional warp, raised during weaving using special needles and cut gradually to create the pile.
For centuries, it has characterized palaces' furnishings and the clothes of the most privileged classes."
"A lavish and fine fabric, whose magnificent patterns and wefts in gold and silver remind us of the Baroque art. Its complex structure requires two warp systems, a ground one and a binding one, and at least two sets of wefts.
These structures create a three-dimensional effect in the designs and are very suitable for incorporating decorative metal threads, in gold or silver, to enrich the fabric."
"Damasks are fabrics with very large motifs, usually floral, and rich in details. Characterised by an iridescent brightness and a soft lightness, they are mainly used in furnishing. What makes them unique is the contrast of brightness between the background and the design, obtained thanks to their satin weave."
After five generations, the Rubelli family has been producing incomparable fabrics - from the unique quality of damasks to producing silk and velvet in its own weaving mills - which have adorned the interiors of the Ducal’s apartments in the Palazzo Ducale in Italy, to the McKim, Mead & White–designed Vanderbilt mansion overlooking the Hudson River in Hyde Park, New York. Their couture and weaves also greatly contribute to opera houses and theaters including Milan’s La Scala and Moscow’s Bolshoi by doing costumes and curtains.
At the start of the 20th century, Lorenzo and his son Dante Zeno aimed to expand their production and especially trade. However, the first world war forced the family to move their ateliers from Venice to Florence, diversifying their production demands and foreshadowing the more contemporary style they were advancing towards (without ever abandoning the classical Venetian themes). Since the very beginning Rubelli has been challenging the Italian printers to find new technical processes to achieve the results they wanted. They have been and have not stopped to be uniquely innovative and different then others such as deciding to collaborate with rising artists they were surrounded by such as Guido Cadorin and Umberto Bellotto and later Vittorio Zecchin and Gio Ponti. Their fabrics, a result of eclectic collaborations, were displayed at various fairs, the first being 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. Indeed, Rubelli is one of the four most prestigious companies in its field and is an example of what happens when a historical heritage is combined with century old textile traditions and with modern technological ingenuity. In other words, Rubelli demonstrates that old and new indeed make a marvelous marriage
"The pattern of this lampas, taken from a nineteenth-century Persian carpet, is oriental in mood and appears embroidered on the opulent silk satin ground. Ancient enamels were the source of inspiration for the colour scheme, in which the tones of turquoise-lapis lazuli are recurrently set off against the gold and red."
"An absolutely classic pattern, taken from an original brocade from the mid-eighteenth century. All the expertise of the Rubelli textile tradition has been used to re-create the richness and the variety of the weaves and of the colour range."
"Fabric with a Rococo influence whose decoration develops in a winding rise of floral elements and cornices, either golden or silvered. Metallic and polychrome wefts are woven in the silk to construct ornamentation in a constant discourse with light."
Fortuny was founded by a genius polymath; an artist, inventor, light technician, photographer and designer called Mariano Fortuny. Mariano built and opened his workshop in Giudecca, Venice in 1922 and today it is still considered Venice’s premier fabric company. He hid in this house to develop secret printing methods and machinery for producing miraculous, handcrafted damask-like patterns on bolts of white cotton.
Being from Spain but also being well-heeled bohemians, the Fortuny family traveled around Europe, and settled for what they considered a long vacation in Rome. It was the artistic atmosphere of Rome that bewitched Marianno and allowed him his painting and drawings skills to flourish. Marianno became fascinated with the techniques of capturing light and layering color, but especially with the gadgets and technical equipment that were constantly laying around his father’s studio. Fortuny thrived by copying the old masters and soon showed his work all around Europe. Quickly, another passion enthralled him; Opera. What appealed to him specifically was opera’s ability to incorporate all art forms — music, lyrics, painting, theater, song, costumes, lighting — in a single unified masterwork. Immediately, Fortuny started painting sets and designing costumes while simultaneously revolutionizing the art of stage lighting such as the invention of domed stage backdrop. It is not hyperbolic to state that this radically changed theater and redefined the rules of stage performance. His standing dome lamps were re adapted as interior-design staple lamps and are still produced and considered modern today. Another trademark of the twentieth century for the textile industry was in 1907, when inspired from the simple Roman tunic, Mariano created a hand-pleated silk shift dress called “Delphos.” which is one of the most exquisite innovations in clothing.
Alas, local businesses and artisans are being pushed off the island and onto the mainland in favor of tourist shops and cheaper, foreign goods. In fact, the Fortuny’s compound in Giudecca is the only working factory left in Venice.