The Friulian Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions
Housed since 2010 in Palazzo Giacomelli, which is situated in the historical quarter of Borgo Grazzano, the Museo Etnografico del Friuli presents a rich and varied collection of exhibits describing various aspects of local culture and tradition dating from the eighteenth century to the present day, the core of which were acquired thanks to donations from Gaetano Perusini and Luigi and Andreina Ciceri.
The exhibition covers three floors and is sub-divided into thematic sections arranged in rooms equipped with educational and multimedia aids providing in-depth information on the artefacts displayed. In some rooms the exhibits are displayed on a rotating basis. The Museum also has several photographic and documentary archives.
The building - Palazzo Giacomelli
The Ethnographic Museum of Friuli (Museo Etnografico) whose original nucleus dates back to the sixteenth century is housed in Palazzo Giacomelli, which derives its name from its last owner, Sante Giacomelli, who purchased the property in 1900. Over the centuries, a long line of wealthy owners carried out extensions and alterations to the building. In the late nineteenth century, renovations were made to both to the exterior, whose façade was decorated with fake red bricks adorned with festoons, mascarons and geometric motifs, and to the grand hall, whose ceiling is depicted with the allegorical subject of Europa e l’Africa, in reference to the opening of the Suez Canal. The paintings, which are attributed to the director of works, Giovanni Masutti, an accomplished decorator, fully reflect the historicist tastes of the era.
Of particular note is the wooden decor in one of the first floor rooms, realized between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by Antonio Brusconi, then one of Udine’s most respected and innovative carpenters, also inspired by the historicist eclecticism of his day.
The museum has three exhibition spaces, one of which is dedicated to permanent collections. Two halls are reserved for rotating collections, while spaces for temporary or visiting exhibitions are also available. While the themes represented are many, the collections follow several specific thematic threads.
01.GROUND FLOOR ITINERARY
The first theme to be explored is family and community life, which in Friuli traditionally revolved around the fogolâr, a centrally located fireplace around which the family would gather to perform daily tasks and activities. While the fogolâr was essentially a physical space with a practical function, it was also the locus of social gatherings and traditional rituals that marked the cycle of the year. Space and time were marked by the events that took place around the family hearth.
Just as holiday festivities interrupt the ebb and flow of community life, the constant contrast between individually lived experience and that collectively lived also confers it a rhythm and unity. The itinerary of the ground floor continues with displays dedicated to lighting and the watch making tradition of Val Pesarina, and concludes with two rooms reserved for rotating exhibitions, one describing the activities of local forestry workers, the other dedicated to ‘arts of fire’ (ceramic and glass manufacture).
Around the Fire: Living spaces, Rituals and Symbols
Room 1. "Fogolâr - Fogolârs" / From the Family to Friulians Worldwide
The objects displayed here describe the patriarchal family, communal life, migration, and emigration – from the experience of the Cramars (pedlars) who traded across the Alps and in the Veneto from the High Middle Ages, to the transnational cultural institute Fogolâr Furlan, which preserved the memory of Friuli among emigrant populations and strengthened ties with the homeland. The latter theme is explored in an accompanying video
Room 2. The Annual Calendar / Festivals and RitualsThe annual calendar displayed in the centre of the room marks the passing of the seasons, working days and holidays, the hours of daylight and of darkness, while the surrounding displays contain exhibits related to Advent and Easter festivals and rituals. In addition to videos describing Carnival traditions such as mask wearing, there are multimedia displays illustrating local rituals involving fire.
Rooms 3_4_5. Fireplace Architecture / Objects and Accessories
These rooms explore three fundamental aspects of daily life: life around the fireplace – including daily objects and rituals; the evolution of lighting, and finally time measurement, with examples of eighteenth century wall clocks produced in Val Pesarina.
Room 6. Arts of Fire (rotating exhibition)
Here visitors can explore the history of ceramics and glassware in Friuli, with particular reference to ceramic bowls. Exhibits include artifacts uncovered during excavations in the historic quarter of Borgo Grazzano, tableware produced by the Galvani factories, as well as examples offering a more contemporary twist on the theme. The next scheduled exhibition is to be devoted to traditional glassware.
Sala 7. Forestry work (rotating exhibition)
This room explores the tradition of forestry work in Friuli with displays of tools and timber production processes (from logging to timber hauling, to coal production). Photographs and a vintage film complement the displays.
FIRST FLOOR ITINERARY
The themes explored on the first floor focus on the “body” and the “soul”, beginning with religious worship and the history of religious confraternities. The tour continues with a section devoted to medical practice and concludes with displays dedicated to music and other fundamental aspects of community life, namely toys and games. Sculptural artifacts are displayed in the main hall, the “Ciceri” room, and the “Borgo Grazzano” room and there is a section reserved for rotating exhibitions, which this year is entitled La culla. Simbolo di vita (The Cradle: Symbol of Life).
Section. Relics of Religious Worship / Devotional Iconography
Room 10. Votive offerings
This room displays examples of Friulian votive paintings and votive objects, including models of boats and figurines of sailors originating from the sanctuary of the Beata Vergine delle Grazie di Sabbionera (Latisana). There is also a map identifying places of devotion in Friuli
Rooms 11-12. Hagiography: The Cult of Saints
The saints have always been central to popular religious observance and these guardian figures are represented by a rich iconography. In addition to statues and paintings from the eighteenth and nineteenth century the exhibits include reliquaries. Often kept in specific places, these receptacles share the same thaumaturgical importance as the relics they contain.
Room 13. Sacred Signs and Symbols
These exhibits explore the tangible signs of religious faith. In addition to murals, stone carvings, and domestic altars, there are holy water fonts and household items decorated with religious monograms, as well as Remondini prints and a variety of personal devotional aids.
Room 14. The Confraternities of Udine
Continuing with the description of the relationship between religious and everyday life, this room traces the history of the confraternities, lay and religious organizations engaged in charitable works and devotional duties. Liturgical ornaments, processional standards and other objects illustrate the daily life and duties of these institutions.
Section: Health and Illness / Medicine, Herbs and Magic Potions
Room 15. Health and Illness in the Nineteenth Century
Boasting a wide range of materials and artifacts, this room explores the complex world of medicine through a variety of approaches to health and illness, including traditional medicine, folk remedies, religious and magic practices, and treatments derived from herbs and spices. Also on display are a number of surgical instruments belonging to Gio Pietro Pitt, a doctor from Carnia, who graduated from the University of Padua on January 14, 1777.
Section: Traditional Music / Dancing, Singing and Commotion
Room 16. Traditional Music
There are many annual events and occasions in life when there is music accompanied by singing and dancing and this room provides a glimpse into the world of early music. Exhibits include a spinet produced in 1563 by Domenico Pesaro, a psaltery, various instruments used for ritual purposes (cog rattles, clappers, whistles, etc.) as well as those for choral and dance music such as the bunkala (a cello-like instrument) and the accordion. There are also several instruments used by street musicians, including a Pianola with musical scores intact. A number of multimedia aids accompany the exhibition.
Section Having fun / Game and show
Room 18. Sports and Entertainment
In popular culture, feast days have always provided opportunities for entertainment and room 18 describes some of the events and activities local people engaged in. In Udine there were fairs, racing and jousting competitions (exemplified by a bust representing a Moor, which features in the traditional Joust of the Quintana) but also marionette and puppet shows. Other exhibits include traditional games for adults and children and examples of nineteenth-century velocipedes.
Here visitors can watch a video introduction to the museum.
The Stucco Room / Wooden Sculptures from the Ciceri Collection
The tour continues with the Stucco room (Room 19), which exhibits wooden statues dating from the fourteenth to eighteenth century illustrating eastern Alpine culture and various popular devotional cults. There is also a video station where visitors can access a wide range of visual materials on the subject.
The Borgo Grazzano Room
The Borgo Grazzano room (room 20) presents period photography and an illustrative video depicting the historical quarter of Borgo Grazzano and, most specifically, the medieval canal that once traversed it. Also on display is a pawnshop counter originally created for the Cividale Monte di Pieta (a charitable pawn broking institution). Typical to the eighteenth-century tradition, the counter decorated in delicate polychrome and features fantastical decorative elements reflecting the rococo style that was popular at the time.
SECOND FLOOR ITINERARY
The second floor explores the theme of textiles and clothing with displays illustrating artisan textile production techniques and clothes in various contexts.
Section. From Fibre to Garment / Technical Know-how and Dress Culture
Rooms 21_22_23. Spinning and Weaving / Materials, Knowledge and Manufacture
A rich array of objects describe the various steps involved in textile production, starting from the initial stage of obtaining the plant or animal fibres and proceeding through the various processing stages – combing, spinning, creating the skeins of thread, dyeing, weaving and finally fabric decoration. In addition to numerous tools and manufactured items (fabrics, lace, tovaglie perugine - tablecloths in the Umbrian style - liturgical textiles, etc.) there are examples of what were known as libri di tacamenti - notebooks produced by the weavers themselves detailing the technical aspects of their work.
Room 24. Traditional Friulian Clothing
The museum concludes with a presentation of the various aesthetic, practical and symbolic characteristics of each and every item that featured in the traditional Friulian wardrobe. The costumes are exhibited in rotation in display cases illustrating garments from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. The main focus of the exhibits is on women’s apparel given that it was women who attributed greater symbolic importance to clothes, who carefully and patiently prepared their trousseau and who played a central role in maintaining and passing on traditions, marked by specific modes of dress for particular occasions. Alongside the garments on display, there are various accessories (handkerchiefs, aprons, socks and shoes), decorative items (including jewellery), as well as paintings and illustrative photographs. There is also a video to compliment the exhibition.