Journal Article

To Educate Taste with the Hand and the Mind. Design Reform in Post-Unification Italy (1884–1908)

Annalisa B. Pesando and Daniela N. Prina

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 25, issue 1, pages 32-54
Published in print March 2012 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online March 2012 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epr051
To Educate Taste with the Hand and the Mind. Design Reform in Post-Unification Italy (1884–1908)

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Few studies have been dedicated to retracing the origins of Italian design. This essay aims to fill the lacunae in our knowledge on the subject, shedding new light on the extremely laborious process that led to the reorganization of the Italian artistic and industrial educational system between the last decades of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. This reform, outlined by the newborn nation-state, was achieved through the work of an institutional commission, the Commissione centrale per l’insegnamento artistico industriale (Central Commission for Industrial Arts Education, 1884–1908), a permanent board devoted to managing and controlling the application of art to industry. This article examines, through a series of various documentary sources, the activity of this institutional commission and explains how the artistic policies of the young state tried to shape a national consciousness by developing a historicist and nationalist language that could be used in the design process by architects, artists and designers, as well as by artisans, craftsmen and workers. The rediscovery of past national tradition and the rational study of nature promoted by the Commissione offered a solid background to the new generation of artists and designers, therefore encouraging the impulsion of a new Art for the forthcoming century.

Keywords: art academies; decorative arts reform; design education; Italy; ornament; taste

Journal Article.  12991 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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