The history of Italy's participation in the Universal Exhibition would be too long to give in all its details. Moreover, it would contain painful political passages that it is unnecessary to mention today. It will suffice to recall that the Italian government refused in the most energetic manner to take part in the Expo-sinon in Paris. Mr. Crispi, in a statement made in the Chamber of Deputies, left no doubt as to the reasons for his action. But a large part of the Italian population disapproved of the minister's ideas, and soon there was agitation throughout the peninsula in favour of participation in the Paris Exhibition. A committee was formed to collect subscriptions. M. de Gentilli moved heaven and earth, and while a Committee was being organised in Paris under the presidency of M. de Camondo, M. Sonzogno, the great publisher of Milan, sent 50,000 francs to the Rome Committee, the Chamber of Commerce of Rome gave 20,000 francs, the Chamber of Commerce of Naples gave 10,000 francs, and soon the Committee had 350,000 francs which were used to organise the Italian section of the Champ de Mars.
This section, whose installation was directed with as much taste as devotion by Mr. Verardini, covers an area of 5,000 square meters, and counts in the different groups more than 700 exhibitors.
The anthropology section is an independent exhibition under the direction of Mr. G. Achim.
The Fine Arts section was directed by Mr. Boldini, the well-known painter. This section cost 75,000 francs to organise, as the paintings were taken from the painters' studios, packed, and transported at the expense of the Committee, which will return all the artistic products that have not been sold.
The most important part of the Italian section is located in the Palace of Miscellaneous Industries. It is picturesquely decorated. The colour red dominates and contributes to making it very cheerful. The façade, which is made of mosaic and marble, cost no less than 45,000 francs. It was designed by Mr. Manfredi, of Rome, who made himself available to the Committee free of charge.
As in all Italian exhibitions, glassware and crystals occupy the most important place. The Salviati exhibition in Venice is a good example of the great reputation that the products of the great glassmaker have throughout Italy and Europe. The Murano exhibition is also very curious and proves that Venetian glass is worthy of its reputation. The glass industry seems to have developed considerably in Italy. Note the exhibition of the Zenka factory in Milan, which is tending to become the Saint-Gobain of Italy.
Burano lace is also very curious, as well as carved wooden furniture. Fifteen exhibitors in this section, who can only be reproached for a little overloading in the details.
A little further on, Florence sends remarkable and tasteful ceramic products. The same cannot be said of the Neapolitan corals and cameos, which are no better than those in previous exhibitions.
No major exhibition represents the textile industry. The great manufacturers have abstained, but on the other hand, the Chambers of Commerce of Milan and Como have sent very complete collections of samples. This will be a very interesting subject of study for French manufacturers.
In the social economy section located at the Esplanade des Invalides, the exhibition of Mr. Luzzatti should be noted, which shows the path taken by Italy in the direction of progress. It is also interesting to see the large relief plan sent by the municipality of Naples to show what it intends to do to clean up the city. Finally, the very curious exhibition of Mr. Sonzogno.
In the mechanical section, Italy is not seriously represented; but in the railway section, with France and Belgium, it is certainly one of the most beautiful exhibitions. The firm of Miani Silvestri exhibited a locomotive with its tender and eleven wagons.
When we have talked about the wines and agricultural machinery, which will be on display at the Quai d'Orsay, we will only have to talk about the four houses that Mr Garnier has made available to the Italian section in his history of housing. These are :
An Etruscan house and a Pelasgian house which will be occupied by a bar.
A Pompeian house where imitation Pompeian objects, lamps, vases, etc. will be sold. Mr. Morabito is the specialist in this imitation and he will be selling them.
Finally, a Renaissance house, in which Mr. Candis has set up a kiln where Venetian glass will be fired. For fifty cents, the visitor can take away an object that he has seen made in front of him.
We can see that, although it was not official, Italy's participation was nonetheless complete. It is to be hoped that it will strengthen the ties between the two nations and that the Exhibition will help to dispel certain clouds that should never have arisen.
© Guide Bleu du Figaro et du Petit Journal 1889