Perspectives Behind the Scenes

Conserving Gallenga’s Theodosia

Dec 4, 2023 10 MINUTES

The Italian artist Maria Monaci Gallenga began creating artistic dress for herself around 1910. This clothing followed a value system that emphasized craftsmanship and the pleasure of making, production methods based on historical techniques, and referenced past modes of dress such as Medieval and Renaissance fashions. Her clothing was created in close collaboration with a seamstress who would cut pattern pieces that Gallenga then printed using carved wood blocks and metallic powder pigments to produce motifs with a magnificent ombré effect, described akin to “water and moonlight.” While her Rome space functioned primarily as a salon, she collaboratively opened a Florence shop, and then Paris boutique in 1926 entitled Gallenga France (later the Boutique Italienne), which sold fabrics and clothing, furniture, and decorative arts. Gallenga exhibited her own textiles internationally, and frequently used her boutique to host exhibitions of her Italian colleagues’ work, actively promoting the legacy of Italian art and handcraft.

When curator Mellissa Huber and conservator Melina Plottu first examined Maria Monaci Gallenga’s “Theodosia” tea gown, (1925), they feared it would be too fragile to ever include in an exhibition. Follow their conservation treatment of the gown and learn about Gallenga’s unique vision as a textile artist and fashion designer. 

Archival images courtesy of Roma, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Archivi delle Arti applicate Italiane del XX secolo

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