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closed Bizarre. Novelty and extravagance in  18th century European silks

The show

Curated by Maddalena Terragni in collaboration with Gregorio Magnani

Bizarre, novelties and extravagances in 18th-century European silks shows a contemporary and multidisciplinary perspective of a phenomenon in the history of Western Textiles. At the turn of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, European weavers invented unusual decorative motifs by mixing them freely and drawing on all the cultural references that came from the East, without worrying to produce realistic representations. It is exactly this approach in redesigning the forms that these productions and the contemporary have in common.

For the first time, following their own sensibility and interpreting the forms, the textile artisans could make free use of the repertoire of designs and create abstract patterns for their polychrome silks that wind and curve, mixing it with geometric motifs, grand imaginary inflorescences merged between depictions of baroque architecture and oriental buildings. The realization of such demanding drawings was made possible by the very high technical competence of the time, which could render the novelties, the extravagance and the refinement of the decorations, sometimes difficult to read.

This free approach, common to eighteenth-century and contemporary productions, is reiterated and emphasized by Stefano Arienti's site-specific intervention. It is not the first time that Arienti's work develops through an interaction with a historical collection - for example, we remember the recent exhibition Finestre Meridiane. Intersections with the collection of Villa Croce, Genoa (2017) or Quadri da un’esposizione, Palazzo Te, Mantua (2016) - but the work at FAR is unique for the pressing dialogue that is established with the textiles.

The eighteenth-century wowen silks

The "bizarre" are part of one of the most significant nuclei of the textile collection of the Fondazione Antonio Ratti: the 18th century brocaded silks. It consists of 800 items, most productions from Lyon and Venice, which together demonstrate all the technical, social and taste transformations that marked the European textile field of that period. They are polychrome silk fabrics that stand out for the great use of gold and silver yarns and for the iconographic richness.

Stefano Arienti

Born in Asola (Mantua) in 1961, in 1980 he moved to Milan, where he still resides. He took part in the first collective exhibition in 1985 at the former Brown Boveri factory, where he met Corrado Levi, his first teacher. With other young artists, he participated in the Italian art scene in the moment of renewal following the seasons dominated by Arte povera and the Transavantgarde. He has held a series of solo and group exhibitions in Italian and foreign galleries and art institutions including MAXXI Museum, Rome (2004); Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, Turin (2005); Querini Stampalia Foundation, Venice (2008); Palazzo Ducale, Mantua (2009); Museion, Bolzano (with Massimo Bartolini, 2011). He participated in the Venice Biennale (Aperto 1990, 1993); Istanbul Biennial (1992); XII Quadrennial of Rome, 1996 (first prize); Biennial of Gwangju (2008). He has taught at the Academy of Fine Arts Giacomo Carrara of Bergamo and at the IUAV University of Venice.

Works on display

Timetable and tickets


Via Cernobbio, 19 (Ratti)
22100 Como


More planned

date_range Fondazione Antonio Ratti Fondazione Antonio Ratti

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Until 31 January 2022

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