Sample Book, "Fabbriche Italiane di Seterie, Como, Serie D Vol. III DAL 1854 AL 2 Lats Noir", 1870–79. Museum purchase from Friends of Textiles Fund. 2011-32-1.

A sample book for somber attire

This sample book, dating from the late nineteenth-century, contains very fine examples of woven silks from Como, Italy. Since the sixteenth century, Como has been a center for luxurious Italian silks. Lake Como and nearby Alpine streams give the region plenty of water to support sericulture. Close to Lake Como is the Po River Valley where mulberry bushes, the food of silkworms, were widely cultivated.

This book was produced by the company Fabbrice Italiane di Seterie Como. A 1905 annual report published by the Silk Association of America notes that the St. Louis Exposition of 1904 had twelve exhibitors of Italian silks, and Fabbrice Italiane di Seterie from Como, Italy was part of the group. The company underwent many changes between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. By the early twentieth century the company was operating under the name Fabbriche Italiane di Seterie Clerici Braghenti & Company. In 1932, the company was based in Milan and doing business under the acronym of FISAC, which was in existence until about 1990. During the twentieth century, FISAC started a program of diversification by purchasing silk and velvet mills, and print and dye works. FISAC was absorbed by a large conglomerate in the 1990s.

This volume has black silks woven in elaborate patterns that are enhanced by vivid shades of red, blue, turquoise and purple. These samples may have been used for men's waistcoats and smoking jackets and as linings for coats as sober black was the mainstay of men's fashion in the nineteenth century. These fabrics would have offered a touch of luxury and color in otherwise somber attire.

The samples contained within this book are in excellent condition and maintain a vivid brightness and intensity because they have been protected by the leather binding. The samples also have the distinct advantage of their large size: each one is approximately ten by twelve inches, especially advantageous because the designs are of large scale.

Museum Number: 
2011-32-1