Collateral exhibitions Mercanteinfiera Autumn Edition 2018 - hall 4
“The glass beads road from Venice to Timbuktu 15th-20th century”
In collaboration with Augusto Panini and Paolo Aquilini
“In this country the traveller does not carry provisions with him… and not even ducats or drachmas. He brings salt pieces and nazhms (glass bead ornaments) and some aromatic goods.”
So wrote, in 1352, Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan traveller on a journey from Oualata, in modern day Mauritania, to Timbuktu.
Since the 14th century glass beads – beautiful, easy to transport and non-perishable – have been considered a valid means of currency.
The ships of the Most Serene Republic of Venice sailed to the ports of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, where the Venetians had established warehouses in Kairouan, Costantina and Tlemcen, starting points of the caravan journeys towards the rich markets of Timbuktu, Agades, Gao, and Oualata.
After the discovery of America and the development of European navies, the new trade routes converged in the Gulf of Guinea, where Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English ships unloaded their goods, to be bartered with ivory, precious woods, palm oil and slaves.
Among these goods there were always glass beads, highly sought after by almost all the African ethnic groups, who had made them a part of their daily lives and tribal rites as indispensable magical and apotropaic elements.
This is the time when Venice took the absolute lead in the production and trade of glass beads, a monopoly they held from the 17th to the 20th century.
To meet the demand of the great companies trading with Africa, America and South East Asia, glassworks factories multiplied in Venice, going from just 24 in 1525 to 250 in 1606, and the production, which included over 100,000 different types, escalated to several tonnes of glass beads a week, almost exclusively for export.
The collection on display covers the whole history of Venetian glass bead production in the Roman and Byzantine tradition, from the imitation of precious stones, to the invention of the multi-layered bead (perla rosetta), to the wonderful millefiori (“thousand flowers”) mosaic beads.
The exhibition is completed by wooden statues from different African areas, adorned with glass beads, sacred offers of profane beauty.
“From sheet metal to design: Sergio Scaglietti maieutics”
In collaboration with Oscar Scaglietti and Davide Toni SERGIO SCAGLIETTI is an undisputed icon of automobile history and a masterly expression of Italian creativity in the car sector. His innate talent, capable of obtaining from metal sheets audacious shapes that evoked the same emotions as works of art, is shown in prestigious examples from private collections, as tributes to the genius of the Master Bodyworker, designer of the most beautiful and elegant cars in the world.