This exhibition presents the restoration of a sumptuous court cloak in ivory-coloured satin created in 1902 presumably by the French fashion House of Worth (Paris), for Donna Franca Florio, who had that same year been appointed lady-in-waiting to Queen Elena, the wife of Victor Emmanuel III.
Franca Florio, commonly called Donna Franca, was an Italian noblewoman and socialite and a prominent protagonist of the Belle Époque. Descendant of a Sicilian noble family, she was nicknamed “Queen of Palermo”.
A leading figure of elegant social life at the turn of the century, as such Donna Florio is currently represented in the two-year display selection “Leading ladies of the twentieth century” by two of her splendid garments (another court cloak in blue velvet embellished with gold cords and Savoy knots, and the black velvet gown which she wore for the portrait by Boldini), on show in the room adjacent to the ballroom.
Also on display in the exhibition are two splendid evening gowns both made by the House of Worth, one of which has many affinities with the cloak. Each of these three garments required a different type of restoration procedure. The satin cloak and gown proved to have suffered damage as a result of the weighting of the silk, which over time dries out the fibres; the restoration was performed using a needle, as partly also in the cloak, while attempts were made to reactivate under pressing in the gown. The third garment in embroidered tulle with applied beads in blown glass had already been consolidated in the past by stitching the old tulle between two layers of modern tulle.
The court cloak of Donna Franca Florio
Museum of Costume and Fashion, Pitti Palace, Florence
18 June – August 2014
Exhibition curated by Chiarelli e Simona Fulceri
Informative brochure published by Sillabe
Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze; Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti