La Culla: a new exhibition at the Museo Etnografico del Friuli

From May 30, 2016 until April 30, 2017, an exhibition showcasing the symbol of birth, the cradle. 

The Friulian Furniture Tradition hall within Museo Etnografico del Friuli periodically hosts rotating exhibitions tracing the history of a particular theme, furniture item, or technique, and this year will host an exhibition showcasing a range of cradles from both the distant and not so distant past to highlight the enduring importance of this highly symbolic object.

Every culture has its rituals when it comes to welcoming a new born. The cradle, which individualizes the child and protects him, was created to mimic the sensation experienced in the womb by the newborn. Its origins, however, are not historically shared in all countries of the world; if we look at the example of European culture, we find the history of the cradle dates back to ancient times. The Italian word for cradle, Culla, derives from the Latin word Cuna; cunarius or cunaria being the nouns attributable to the person responsible for rocking the cradle. Through his constant bond with his mother, who protects him and provides for his safe upbringing, the infant undergoes a gradual process of social integration.  The cradle serves a number of purposes as not only must it be ensured that the child gets the rest he needs, for which a bed of sorts is necessary, but the mother also needs to find a means to facilitate the infant’s sleep at the same time as fulfilling her tasks, as well as a means with which to move or transport the child when the need occurs.

Alongside the various models on display, there is a cradle designed by the architect Ottorino Aloisio and realized by a local wicker manufacturer (Gervasoni) in around 1930.

Early childhood was a particularly vulnerable period in times past, as many ex-voto paintings illustrating narrow escapes from common dangers clearly testify. The precariousness of infant health generally, together with the widespread dangers that existed, especially among working class families, necessitated a series of precautionary measures being implemented to protect infants against the numerous risks they faced: falling from the cradle, attacks from animals, as well as hazards posed by the home fire besides which the cradle was placed to keep the baby warm. The cradle could not be left unattended and to ward off danger was painted or decorated in auspicious colours and decked with an assembly of protective paraphernalia from religious talismans to amulets.


Download the explanatory brochure here.