The Silk Exhibition is the first to open on the right, along the colonnade of the main square.
The ideas which governed its preparation deserve to be recalled here, because they demonstrate the vitality of the industry itself and the strong organisation of the industrialists who have devoted themselves to it in Italy. Each company gave up an individual exhibition to bring together the products of its spinning mills with those of the other companies in a single, grandiose collective exhibition. The excellent results of such an annihilation, so to speak, of the particular individualities fused into a great general individuality, directing the silk industry in Italy, can be seen at once in the various sections of the exhibition. Guided by a general guiding idea, the exhibition has acquired such homogeneity, such a fusion of elements, such seriousness and such a height of expression that it should serve as a lesson for all future Exhibitions.
First, at the entrance, there are the four large artistic display cases which reproduce environments and subjects from Italian history, skilfully highlighting the rich silk costumes of the Middle Ages.
The first period, from 1450 to 1550, is represented by Leonardo da Vinci; the great painter is painting the portrait of Isabella d'Este. The Medicean period (1150-1650) shows Donna Aldobrandini, all ablaze with Italian spirit, refusing to dance with Maramaldo who has killed Ferruccio by surprise. The period of the Dukes of Savoy (1650-1750) is represented by the poet Fulvio Festi who invites Charles Emmanuel I to deliver Italy. Finally, Venice (1750-1850) brings all its Goldonian gaiety with Goldoni himself who is about to read a comedy to the artists of his Company.
The success of these artistic showcases, populated by life-size plastic figures, is only surpassed by the dioramas displayed in the adjoining salon, which is kept in shadow by a velarium so that all the light is focused on the paintings.
There are eight dioramas arranged around the salon, which reproduce in chronological order the most important periods and facts in the history of sericulture, especially in relation to Italy:
I. - Cultivation of the silkworm in China (3000 B.C.).
II. - Importation of silkworm seed from China to the Court of the Emperor Justinian in Constantinople (553 A.D.).
III. - Introduction of sericulture in Sicily under Roger the Norman (year 1130).
IV. - Silk Palace, near Orsanmichele, in Florence (year 1400).
V. - Two Piedmontese workers present silk fabrics to the consuls of Lyon (year 1530).
VI. - Emmanuel-Philibert had the first mulberry trees planted in Piedmont, in his park for the royal venry (year 1557).
VII. - Emperor Napoleon visits Jacquard (year 1806).
VIII. - The largest cocoon market in Italy, in Cuneo (present time).
The historical data used to summarise the history of sericulture were collected in 1906, on the occasion of the Milan Exhibition, in a booklet by J. B. L. De Angelis, secretary of the Silk Industry Associations. Following their indications, the painter J. B. Carpanetto designed and executed, with the collaboration of the engineer Adolphe Dalbesio, the various compositions. Carpanetto is also the author of the allegory on the façade of the building and the decorations in the main exhibition hall.
The historical paintings in the showcases were designed by Professor Emile Magistrelli of Milan, with the help of Baron Bugatti-Valsecchi; under their direction, the costumes were executed with scrupulous historical fidelity by Mr. Adelchi Zamperoni of Milan.
Let us now take a quick look at the exhibition itself.
The central hall includes the Como Manufacturers' Collective Exhibition. The brilliant fashionable fabrics, tastefully and artfully arranged in rich showcases by Mr. Thomas Petersen, produce delicate and refined effects of colour. The Como Association also exhibits fabrics for export in another room. The other showcases scattered around contain the products of the main Piedmontese, Lombard, Tuscan and Umbrian firms.
The following rooms present the exhibition of silkworms, samples of cocoons, the didactic and statistical exhibition, with important diagrams and cartograms on the industrial and commercial movement in all the branches of sericulture, collected and arranged by the Associations of the silk industry and packaging of Turin and Milan.
The pavilion also includes spinning machines, various tools and precision instruments for weighing silk.
The silk exhibition, rich, varied, and tastefully arranged, tells visitors, even without figures, how important this industry is in Italy. Our production is only inferior to that of China and Japan, and we compete victoriously with them.
The exhibition is the initiative of the Piedmont Silk and Silkworm Industry Association, based in Turin; the Association of the Silk Industry and Trade in Italy, based in Milan; the Italian Association of Silk Manufacturers, based in Como; and the Italian Association of Silkworm Breeders, based in Milan.
The Executive Committee is composed of the President, Mr. Craponne, and the Vice-Presidents, Mr. Maxime De Vecchi, Mr. Albert Clerici and Mr. Amilcar Redaelli, each of whom heads one of the four associations organising the exhibition.
©Guide Officiel de l'Exposition Internationale de Turin 1911