Rome, the Colosseum opens up to fashion with an exhibition on bird-dresses at the Farnese Bird Houses

Spring 2024 at the Colosseum Archaeological Park brings a special exhibition dedicated to bird-dresses made by haute couture houses. Appointment until July 21 at the Farnesian Uccelliere on the Palatine.

Spring 2024 at the Colosseum Archaeological Park brings a special exhibition entitled RARA AVIS. Fashion in Flight at the Farnese Birds, scheduled from April 24 to July 21 in the Farnese Birds on the Palatine Hill with the curatorship of Sofia Gnoli and the organization and promotion of the Colosseum Archaeological Park. Bird-inspired dresses and accessories, unique examples of haute couture from the archives of the world’s most famous fashion houses, will be on display in the Uccelliere Farnesiane, one of the most symbolic places of Renaissance and Baroque Rome, set in the Orti Farnesiani on the Palatine, the world’s first botanical garden, commissioned in the 16th century by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. The exhibition itinerary winds its way through the two pavilions and is divided into three sections: The Myth, Kaleidoscopic Visions and The WINGS, irreALI, reALI. The winged imagination of the ’mythical’’Anna Piaggi.

“The new scheduled exhibition, even more than in other cases, confirms the will of the Colosseum Archaeological Park to enliven its important architectural complexes with cultural events that draw their inspiration from the genius loci, in dialogue with the creative energies that gradually emerge from civil society. A succession of extraordinary bird-dresses and feathered accessories enlivens, in fact, on the Palatine, the Farnese Birds,” explains Alfonsina Russo, Director of the Colosseum Archaeological Park. “Great attention has been paid not only to the choice of objects, but also to the layout of the exhibition, which will be immersive with projections of an idyllic landscape, the sounds and noises of nature for the aviary that houses the section Kaleidoscopic Visions and the simulation of thunder and lightning in the other for the section The Myth.”

These are some of the habitats it will be possible to admire: the majestic white swan gown, a froth of tulle complemented by white wings by Maria Grazia Chiuri for Christian Dior(Cruise, 2022); the black swan gown, bringing to mind Odile from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (haute couture fall-winter 1997); the long black gown, garnished at the back with a cascade of kaleidoscopic feathers by Thierry Mugler (haute couture fall-winter 1997); the gold micro-dress, in metal mesh and huge ostrich feather wings designed by Donatella Versace especially for Katy Perry and sported by her on the MET Gala red carpet in 2018; the exclusive look made by Alessandro Michele for Gucci with 3D crystal embroidery and worn by Florence Welch, at the MET Gala in 2019, as well as the outfit, with parrot bolero, from Jean-Paul Gaultier ’s first haute couture show (fall-winter 1997). The“Victory of the Hummingbird” dress, designed especially for “Rara Avis” by Tiziano Guardini, made of nonviolent silk and dedicated to the theme of sustainability, also deserves a special place.

A section is then dedicated to Anna Piaggi’s “avian” accessories and from her personal collection, including a cage bag with canaries and hats by Schiaparelli and Philip Treacy.

“Just like two Wunderkammers, the rooms of wonders, which housed natural and artificial rarities between the 16th and 17th centuries,” adds Sofia Gnoli, curator of the exhibition, “the Uccelliere will host visionary clothes and accessories born from the ideas of international designers. We would like to give visitors an experience of wonder, as if they were immersing themselves in a small, mind-blowing cosmos, where there is a correspondence between man and animal, to look further into the very relationship with nature.”

Feathered robes and bird accessories are part of an allegorical lexicon with multiple meanings, symbolizing contrasting allusions-fear, beauty, prison and freedom-that has enchanted artists and writers, sculptors and fashion designers over the centuries.

Disturbing or benevolent, however metaphorical, birds have been part of the lexicon of appearances since antiquity. Such is the case with Maat,Ancient Egyptian goddess of justice, often depicted with feathered wings, as well as the Harpies of Greek mythology, monstrous creatures with a woman’s face and a bird’s body.

Parrots, eagles, ostriches and peacocks periodically enchanted knights and queens, princesses and muses of taste. Think of the last quarter of the eighteenth century when Queen Marie Antoinette, playfully nicknamed “Featherhead” by her brother Joseph, furore with her lofty hairstyles teeming with stuffed birds and small cages, created by Léonard, her personal hairdresser. Later, as is evident from certain descriptions by Proust who, in a passage in the Recherche, sees the Duchess of Guermantes transfigured into a bird of paradise, women began to undergo true metamorphoses.

Something similar seems to be happening with the clothes and accessories in the exhibition, which, through an astonishing journey, make the human world converse with the animal world.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog published by Marsilio Arte where, alongside the text by Sofia Gnoli, there will be essays by Emanuele Coccia, Karen Van Godtsenhoven, Peter McNeil, Natsumi Nonaka and Simona Segre Reinach.

For all information, you can visit the official website of the Colosseum Archaeological Park.

Rome, the Colosseum opens up to fashion with an exhibition on bird-dresses at the Farnese Bird Houses
Rome, the Colosseum opens up to fashion with an exhibition on bird-dresses at the Farnese Bird Houses

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