Our artist collective Intreccio Creativo was selected to participate in the Palace Women – Oltrarno and Beyond project this year. The brief was to create a piece of work to represent the spirit of 19th-century poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her Florentine home, Casa Guidi.
Earlier this year we had collaborated to make a table setting, each one of us bringing our objects to the table: ceramics, home textiles, floral arrangements, woodwork and prints. For this project we decided to recreate that idea, this time making pieces inspired by the poet, the house and the city she loved so much.
I knew very little about Elizabeth Barrett Browning, having only read some of her love poems many years ago. Researching her for this project was enjoyable, given the many books, texts, and even films and plays about her life, as well as her poems and Casa Guidi, of course. So, we began our research at piazza San Felice 8, visiting the apartment she shared with her husband and son for 15 years until her death in 1861. Casa Guidi was a real surprise, not an opulent noble palazzo, but a warm and comfortable home, which is open to the public to visit and can actually be rented via the Landmark Trust.
Today’s Casa Guidi is almost as it was when the poetess lived there, as can be seen in a painting produced just after her death and from the many written descriptions of furniture and furnishings. The living room is decorated in a strong colour scheme, based on the red, white and green of the Italian flag, as Barrett Browning was in favour of the unification of Italy. Then there’s the main bedroom with its lovely soft blue and ceiling plaster doves surrounded by foliage. Used by Robert Browning, also a poet, the little studio room is also home to EBB’s reclining couch, where she allegedly first met her beloved husband whilst living in England.
We read her poetry and letters, which are fascinating for anyone who loves Florence and its art. Her writing captures the social, political and historical landscape of 1850s Italy and also show her to have been a woman who fought passionately for justice and equality regarding women’s rights, anti-slavery and fighting against child workers.
Each of us took elements from the vast amount of research material available and turned it into unique objects that will be used to make up our Elizabeth Barrett Browning table setting. Working together as a group is enjoyable and beneficial as artisans usually work in a solitary manner. This project has given us the opportunity to bounce ideas off one another and share our passion for art and creativity.
We do hope that you can join us for the vernissage on October 30 or to visit the exhibition, which will run through November and December at Il Palmerino.