The thousand lives of the umbrella | Its modern history at the Gignese Museum

Maglia collection

From power symbol, both for humans and gods, to luxury and seduction object, the umbrella changes in time to be used as a sunshade and, today, as an accessory to shelter from the rain. This is the ancient history, rich in mythical symbolism, of the umbrella. Today there is evidence of this passion in the Italian umbrella factories and in a museum: a few steps from Lake Maggiore, in the province of Verbania, the Parasol and Umbrella Museum in Gignese celebrates this fascinating tradition.

Its origins go back in time, back to China in the twelfth century BC, when the goddess Nut was often represented in the form of parasol, her body arched to cover the ground in a loving and protecting gesture. In Egypt and India, the umbrella is associated with goddesses of fertility and harvest or of death and rebirth: in his fifth incarnation, Vishnu had brought an umbrella, the rain giver, from the underworld. The Babylonians used it for sun shelter, as a mannerism. Throughout the Far East, from China to Persia and Assyria, umbrella becomes a mark of nobility, so much that its use is only allowed for real and court dignitaries.

Ombrelli colorati

In the Western world the umbrella is increasingly associated with women: already in the third century BC in the Roman society, women used to shelter with a parasol, during the festivities dedicated to the gods. The poets describe it as a delicate and precious object in a woman’s hands.

In fact, only in the 1800 does the umbrella become a success accessory among women, an indispensable fashion accessory to be shown off in public and in the open air together with a purse and a hat.

The umbrella as a rain shelter, however, makes its first appearance with the ancient Romans, then falls into disuse to reappear much later, still in Italy, around the end of the 1500. From here begins a beautiful story of Made in Italy.

To tell about all its splendor, the Parasol and Umbrella Museum in Gignese, the only one in the world dedicated to this object. A nice story: the building that hosts the Museum, as seen from the steps of the nearby church of San Maurizio surprises for its plant in the form of three open umbrellas, side by side. The project was designed by architect Bazzoni in the second half of the eighties.

Parasol and Umbrella MuseumApproximately 1,500 articles are on display, parasols and umbrellas that trace the fashion history and evolution since 1800. Next to them you can see the materials for their production: silk and synthetic fibers, ivory handles, wood, silver. The museum also tells the historical use of the parasol and umbrella through fashion plates, in addition to the craftsmen life, dedication and care, in the practice of their exciting work. A passion that has produced the most elegant, most refined and most fashionable Made in Italy umbrellas in the whole world. Like the Maglia ones, the last umbrella craftsman in Italy, in Milan.

Parasol and Umbrella Museum:

  • Via Golf Panorama 2, Gignese (Vb)
  • +39 0323 89622
  • www.gignese.it/museo
  • Aperto dal 1° aprile al 30 settembre
  • Aperto tutti i giorni tranne il lunedì
  • Orari: 10.00-12.00 / 15.00-18.00
  • Ingresso : Euro 2.50 / Euro 1.50 (ridotto)

Museo dell'ombrello Gignese

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