Sunday, 13 December 2009

The 1960s 'Prince of Prints' Rug Collection of Italian Fashion Designer Emilio Pucci

We will finish this year with a series of lighter articles that will outline the creativity within carpet design in the second half of the twentieth century. The first is devoted to Emilio Pucci, Marchese di Barsento (1914-1992), a major Italian personality within the fashion industry. Known as the Prince of Prints, Pucci designed slacks, shirts and dresses in vivid and startling colour combinations. Born within an aristocratic and illustrious Florentine family whose ancestors had never had to work "in a thousand years", as he once famously explained to Life magazine, Pucci's life is well worth a Visconti film. He studied, graduated and then embraced a military career as a pilot during the Mussolini period. However, after having helped a member of the Mussolini family to escape to Switzerland, Pucci was imprisoned for a while and so managed to sit out the rest of the war in Switzerland, by which time he was financially ruined.

Emilio Pucci Rug in one of his Boutiques, 1970s

He began to design commercial clothing with new fabrics for winter sports in Zermat, Switzerland in 1947. In that same year a photographer for Harper's Bazaar magazine, took pictures of the outfits that he saw during his trip. These were sent to Diana Vreeland, who alerted a Lord & Taylor buyer, who then ordered a collection. This opened the doors of the American market to his business. The next success came with a swimwear line in 1949, created in his own plant and shop on Capri, the Italian island that became the popular jet set summer vacation spot of the 1950s. Creatively he introduced a real dimension of pleasure and libertine fashion, using silky materials and magnificent and personal coloured compositions. In 1966 he launched a perfume, Vivara created for his three year old daughter and promoted by the French film star Catherine Deneuve. He was one of the first to create a haute couture line of underwear in the United States. In the 1960s he continued to embrace new fields in design, ranging from the airline uniform market to the design of the official Apollo 15 logo.

It was during the end of this period that he conceived a line of carpets inspired by his collection of prints. Surprisingly the collection, containing about twelve models, was manufactured by an Argentinean company Dandolo & Primi in 1968-1970. It was based on a combination of five colour schemes: Hearth, Ice, Sun, Night and Rose tones. Before being shown in western markets, mainly Italian and American, the collection was exhibited in the Buenos Aires Museum of Decorative Arts in 1970, which produced the catalogue: Alfombras Argentinas de Emilio Pucci, Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo, 1970. Through our research we have not been able to identify any other publication that presented the complete collection. The models bore names like Vivara and Lamborghini and presented a unique collection of colourful rugs in sweet and vivid colours, featuring elegant and fluid lines. The rugs were tufted and available in different sizes and shapes, both square and rectangular, and in a limited quantity of fifteen per model. They bear the signature Emilio set within the pile, which sometimes appears several times.

Pucci used his carpets for the decoration of his shops and also his Florentine palace, which was his family home. The innovation introduced by Pucci within carpet design was purely formal and artistic in both composition and colour palette. This explains why they were described as floor paintings in wool. We can only regret that the life that inhabited his garments was not expressed nearly as successfully through his carpet designs, perhaps due to either the use of new fibres or the unexpected shapes or sizes produced.

After this collection a reissue of several models in larger sizes and an industrial collection bearing the Pucci name seems to have been created. The lack of information prevents us from giving any further details. We have been able to trace less than fifteen carpets that have appeared on the market at various auctions.

News and Auctions
1)December 10 2009, Netherhampton Salerooms, UK: 1540 rug entitled Cercle by DIM; 1573 The Rose pattern C. F. A. Voysey.
2)December 12 2009, De Vuyst, Lokeren, Belgium: two rugs from Corneille.
3)December 16 2009, Christies, London: pile tapestry by Victor Pasmore.
4)December 16 2009, Sotheby, New York: two Donnemara carpets by C. F. A. Voysey; anon European carpet; an Austrian Secession carpet.
5)December 16 2009, Pierre Berge, Paris: two rugs by Ivan da Silva Bruhns and Emiel Veranneman.

Article written by Jean Manuel de Noronha


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