Florence’s “green chain walk”, already introduced in my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/the-enchantress-well/, provides a welcome escape from the atmospheric, but sometimes claustrophobic, depths of the Oltrarno’s via de’ Bardi.
That great diplomat of the art market, Stefano Bardini, had his mansion in this area but it was largely used to display, in appropriately enticing arrangements, works of art he had selected for his prosperous international clientele.
On his death in 1922 Bardini donated his collection to the Italian state and since then it has been one of Florence’s alluring “collector’s museums” (together with those other greats, Museo Stibbert, Villa I Tatti, Casa Rodolfo Siviero, and Museo Horne) – places containing the personal choices of affluent art lovers, collectors and dealers.
Bardini’s domestic life, however, largely took place in his Villa which is way up the Costa San Giorgio – one of the steepest streets in Florence and where Galileo was put under house arrest (“e pur si muove”). The most pleasant way of reaching the villa, though, is through an entrance off the Via de Bardi which accesses the spendid gardens which now, after years of oppressive neglect, have been restored to their former glory. The gardens would provide an outstanding visit in themselves – the wisteria avenue around May is a stunning sight.
The villa, too, has been restored to its former charm – thank goodness Florence is now realising the cultural wealth it possesses and is at last revaluating those of its formerly neglected treasures – and contains no less than three separate exhibition spaces: that for special exhibitions, the Annigoni museum and the Fondazione Roberto Capucci.
In case you didn’t already know, Roberto Capucci is regarded as one of the greatest fashion designers of the twentieth century and has dressed women celebrities in the world of cinema, theatre and high society. Among his most famous outfits is the one worn by Italian scientist Rita Levi -Montalcini on the occasion of the awarding of the Nobel Prize to her for medicine in 1986. Born in 1930 in Rome, Capucci attended the Academy of Fine Arts where he studied with Mazzacurati, Avenali and de Libero. In 1950 he opened an atelier and presented his first creations at the residence of Giorgini, the founder of modern Italian fashion.
At 26 Capucci was already considered the best of Italian fashion designers and was particularly appreciated by Christian Dior who, in a “Vogue” interview called him “the best creator of Italian fashion “. Many honours and recognitions followed.
In 1968 after time spent in France and the USA Capucci returned to Italy and his workshop in Via Gregoriana, Rome. In the same year he designed the costumes worn by that greatest of Italian actresses, Silvana Mangano, for Pasolini’s film Teorema.
In 1970 Capucci presented his collection in the grotto of Rome’s Museum of Etruscan Art at Villa Giulia. He revolutionized the tradition of fashion parades, with models wearing boots with low heels, no makeup and their own hair. His other dress innovations include the inclusion of decorative elements and rigid structural material and even stones and straw.
In 2005, Roberto Capucci created his foundation with the aim of preserving its archive, which consists of 439 historic costumes, 500 signed illustrations, 22,000 original drawings, and an extensive photo library and media centre.
In 2007 the Villa Bardini in Florence opened the present Museum of the Roberto Capucci Foundation, in which exhibitions are held and a busy teaching schedule is carried out.
In April 2012, Roberto Capucci launched his competition for young designers with the aim of promoting fledgling talents – just what Italy needs today with so much youthful genius going wasted because of lack of appreciation and funds.
Enough of the background. Let my photos of these absolutely superlative dresses speak for themselves. The colours, the flow of the lines, the sheer creativity of design is awesome and, in itself, should make a visit to the villa Bardini essential for art lovers whether they be interested in fashion or not – after all some of the most stunning fashions in Florence are to be seen on the old master paintings one admires in the galleries themselves! In Capucci’s own motto inscribed on one of the walls:
(Trans:Make beauty your constant ideal.)
And if one needs to reconnect with the “real” world after the fabulous fashions of Capucci then all that is needed is to step out on the Villa Bardini’s panoramic terrace to gaze on the most splendid views Florence can offer. Thing of beauty are joys forever…..