A few weeks ago I attended the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in Piazza di Santa Trinita as part of a Lorenzo de’ Medici school activity. I went in to the experience not knowing much about Ferragamo as a designer or an Italian historical figure, but it soon became clear how much Ferragamo contributed to Italy and society.
The current exhibit, Il Ritorno In Italia, is a multimedia experience including video, paintings, furniture, sculptures, clothing, artifacts and shoes in celebration of Ferragamo’s return to Italy from the United States. The beauty of the pieces displayed and the noteworthiness of Ferragamo’s life are undeniable, but what captured my attention was the consistent theme of the emancipation and empowerment of women in Italy in the 1920’s.
Ferragamo showed great respect for women’s desires in the efforts he took to create the best shoe possible – aesthetically and foundationally. The shoes he created were unique to each of his clients and often featured original artwork. In the 1920’s as many men were away at war, women’s hemlines got shorter, shoes gained importance, and women were celebrated in more ways than ever before. Without the liberation of women, Ferragamo’s designs would have likely lived underneath long skirts and dresses as shoes had in the past.
A large space in the Ferragamo museum is dedicated to some of the major catalysts for women empowerment in Italy. Highlighted are female artists, writers, photographers, actresses, and more. A short biography of each woman can be listened to on the audio device provided by the museum. Some of the women included are Paola Borboni, Wanda Wulz, Anita Pittoni, Margerita Sarfatti and Edina Altara.
Many of the actresses and dancers pushed cultural boundaries through daring actions and erotic content. Women writers shared their unfiltered thoughts in beautiful and critical ways, solidifying their place in society. Women artists’ focused on creating and produced paintings and sculptures that are still held in high regard today. These women were earning their place in society and history for their own actions, a new concept to Italy and many other places in the world.
Along with the trailblazing women of Italy in the 1920’s, the Ferragamo museum focuses on the natural sensuality and movement of the female body as depicted in paintings and sculptures. There are pieces that embrace women’s true form, sexuality, and emotions. The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum is well curated and demonstrates the cultural shift occurring in society and art in the 1920’s which coincided with Ferragamo’s return to Italy.
Anna Perrone is a junior at the University of Kansas studying Strategic Communications in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Anna is attending LDM for the Spring semester of 2018 where she is enrolled in the 16 Unit Super Intensive Italian Program. With family roots in Italy and an innate interest in people and artful expressions, she is looking forward to her time in Florence and immersing herself in the local culture.