1860 - 1900

Ancient crafts and costumes in  Italy

Alinari Archives

Crafts and popular characters in Italy in the nineteenth century photographic culture
Fratelli Alinari/2015

Imagine being a tourist in the nineteenth century.

Italy was the dream of many travelers in the past.

And the reality that they discovered when they visited Italy was often different from what they had imagined.

Portrait of an old copyist and a young woman in a street in Naples, Brogi, 1870, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
 The scribe

Few people could write, so the SCRIBE got to work sheltering from the sun.

Imagine how many secrets and confidences he learned ...

In the street you could meet a band of GUYS AND CHILDREN IN CONCERT with their “manager”. A hit show yesterday and today!

Children with musical instruments, Graham, James, 1890/1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Children with musical instruments in a street of Piedigrotta.
Cobblers on the streets of Naples, Pelos, F, 1890/1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. The shoemaker.
Young pottery vender asleep in a street in Naples, Alinari, Fratelli, 1890, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Pottery vender.

Daily life in the villages was hard, but to travelers it seemed sweet and charming ...

Family of Sicilian commoners, Sommer, Giorgio, 1895/1905, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Taormina. Genre scene in street.
The tuna market in Palermo, Alinari, Fratelli, 1915/1920, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Palermo. Tuna market.

The work on the street had its picturesque and folkloristic character, but the looks, however, showed dignity and pride.

Naples: poorly dressed children at the beach, Sommer, Giorgio, 1880, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
"Naples".

A “Poor but proud Nature ”, said Goethe in his Grand Tour.

He had observed a greatness of spirit, a lot of creativity and industriousness joined to the ability to indulge  in “SWEET IDLENESS”.

Sweet idleness, Alinari, Fratelli, 1897, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
"Dolce far niente", sweet idleness.

“Naples is a paradise! We live in a kind of ecstasy and oblivion of ourselves! ”. J.W. von Goethe.

Fishermen pulling in their nets in Naples, Alinari, Fratelli, 1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Fishermen pulling in their nets.
Fishermen pulling a net, on a pier in Naples, Alinari, Fratelli, 1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Fishermen pulling the nets, on a pier in Naples.

Work was hard for everyone, women, men  and children. Always faced, however, with creativity. 

Even today, a philosophy of life.

Mineral water seller and bearer, in Naples, Alinari, Fratelli, 1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Mineral water seller and bearer.

There were no supermarkets, but there were open-air markets and street shops. The water was transported with carts and was sold in WATER VENDOR'S KIOSK.

On stalls were corn, chestnuts, roots, watermelons ...

Corn and vegetable hawkers in Naples, Alinari, Fratelli, 1890, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Napoli. Corn hawkers.
A Maruzzaro, seller of snails, Naples, Unknown, 1890, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Street vendor of chestnuts.
Water vender's kiosk in Naples, Alinari, Fratelli, 1890/1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Water vender's kiosk.

The road was like a home and as a workshop that housed everyone from the SELLER OF PASTA to the hairdresser, from the COBBLER to the scribe. There was even who was selling fresh milk.

Water melon seller, Naples, Pelos, F, 1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Napoli. Water melon sellers.
A group of commoners washing in a street of Naples, Alinari, Fratelli, 1890, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples.Toilette in the street.
The shop of a Neapolitan macaroni maker., Alinari, Fratelli, 1879/1910, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Neapolitan pasta vender.
The hair dresser of Saint Lucia in Naples, turn of the century, Alinari, Fratelli, 1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Hair dresser of Saint Lucia.
Portrait of "Vaccara" (milk-seller), Naples, Unknown, 1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples.  "Vaccara" or milk-seller.

Let’s have a look at the ancient crafts in “color”. These original images were retouched by hand by the photographers or their collaborators. At the time there was no color photography and, with a little of artistic inspiration, photographers, such as miniaturists of ancient manuscripts, painted their pictures to make them more beautiful and to bring out details, such as red watermelons or SELLERS OF FRUIT.

Naples. Watermelon sellers., Chauffourier, Gustave Eugène, 1865, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Watermelon sellers.
Pasta making establishment in Palermo, Brogi, 1870, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Pasta making establishment.

The territory of Southern Italy was ideal for the production of pasta due to the microclimate composed of wind, sun and right humidity.

The fortunes of this product was developed in the seventeenth century when it became a basic food because of its nutritional value and low cost of production.

Hence the widespread iconography linked to the pasta, SPAGHETTI and MACARONI.

Two young women on a street in Naples, near the Medina fountain, Chauffourier, Gustave Eugène, 1870, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Fruit vendors.
A radish seller resting., Brogi, 1874/1876, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Roots seller.
Macaroni eaters, Brogi, 1870, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Pasta vendor.

The children were playing on the street, working, enjoying themselves, living ...

Even kids were contributing to household economy,  acting either as SHOESHINE or MUSICIANS of improvised musical instruments.

Other times, they were playing games now almost forgotten.

The game of morra, Naple, Alinari, Fratelli, 1897, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Little girl in traditional dress, in the city of Taormina, Alinari, Fratelli, 1920, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Spidocchiatrice, Delouser, Sommer, Giorgio, 1850, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Rome. Delouser.
Child with drum and top hat, Unknown, 1890/1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Child with drum and top hat.
Shoe-shiner, Naples, Unknown, 1890, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Shoe-shiner.
The game of morra, Naple, Alinari, Fratelli, 1897, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. The game of morra.
Sicilian girl with a bunch of grapes, Rive, Robert, 1914, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Taormina. Sicilian girl.

The GAME OF MORRA consisted in guessing the sum of the numbers shown with the fingers by all players.

They tended his arm, showing fingers and shouting the winning number!

Very popular among boys and adults, it often became a gamble.

Childs eat the spaghetti with hands, Chauffourier, Gustave Eugène, 1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Spaghetti eaters.
The game of the "cappelletto" (little hat), Alinari, Fratelli, 1897, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. The game of the "cappelletto".
Little girl in traditional dress, in the city of Taormina, Alinari, Fratelli, 1920, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Little girl in folk dress

The unique creativity of the Made in Italy originates in the imagination and strong and proud spirit of these people.

Local traditions which often identify Italy, are the same that gave rise to the craftsmanship widespread all over Italy.

The ability to imagine, weave and sew dresses and costumes, for example, has become today's talent and excellence in the field of fashion .

As well as the production of pasta still characterizes one of the excellence Italian food.

Portrait of a Sicilian water-bearer., Unknown, 1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Randazzo. Water bearer.
Old Sicilian lady with a spindle for hand-spinning, Sommer, Giorgio, 1911/1918, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Taormina. Old lady who spins.
Two couples wearing traditional costumes of Osilo, Sassari, Caneva, Giacomo, 1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Traditional costumes of Osilo, Sassari.
Player of the Launéddas, popular Sardinian wind instrument., Brogi, 1920/1930, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Sardinia. Player of the Launéddas
Portrait of a family on a typical painted sicilian cart, Alinari, Fratelli, 1875/1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Palermo. Sicilian cart.

The LAUNEDDAS is a musical instrument of ancient origins, still used today in Sardinia during the traditional dances; it consists of three rods of different extent.

Its sound is continuous, a feature common to the bagpipes, and other wind instruments in the Mediterranean area.

Family of pipers, Caneva, Giacomo, 1870, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Family of pipers.
A few men in traditional dress in the countryside of Randazzo, Unknown, 1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Two young peasant women chatting and leaning against a wall., Caneva, Giacomo, 1870/1880, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
 Peasant girls from the Lazio region.

Playing and dancing, making music and entertainment with simplicity, were popular pastimes. They knew how to construct their own musical instruments: bagpipes, launeddas, guitars and tambourines.

Two men carrying a freshly-caught tuna. Palermo, Alinari, Fratelli, 1915/1920, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Men carrying a freshly-caught tuna. 
Tarantarella dancers in traditional costumes, in Naples, Brogi, 1875/1880, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Tarantella from Sorrento.
Lazzarone (Neapolitan homeless beggar). Naples, Brogi, 1865, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. "Lazzarone", Neapolitan homeless beggar.

And then, sometimes, they allowed themselves a well earned rest.

There were even those who had made it a “job”.

The LAZZARONE, a homeless beggar, thanks to the favorable climate, could survive without having to worry excessively about issues of food and clothing. Typically he was an idler, he did occasional work, sometimes even some petty theft or trick and often begging. For this reason the term “lazzarone” in Italian is synonymous of lazy person or crook.

Neapolitan pipers, Conrad, Giorgio, 1854/1863, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Pipers of Naples.
Sicilian girls, Sommer, Giorgio, 1890, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Taormina. Sicilian girls.
Portrait of a young shepherd, Conrad, Giorgio, 1852/1854, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Portrait of a young shepherd.
Member of the Congregation of San Francesco, Naples, Chauffourier, Gustave Eugène, 1865, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Member of the Congregation of San Francesco. Naples.

Moving for work, or traveling around was not easy. The lucky ones could use the horse-drawn carts, also pulled by donkeys or even buffalos.

Two men on horseback near a fountain, Naples, Simelli, Carlo Baldassarre, 1890/1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Two men on horseback near a fountain, Naples.
Group portrait in traditional dress from Palermo, up the Sicilian cart, Rive, Robert, 1880, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Sicilian cart.

The SICILIAN CART today has become an object of art and craft symbol of Sicily. Decorated with bright paintings and finely carved, in the nineteenth century it was the only means of transport available in Sicily. A traveling artwork.

Group portrait on a sicilian cart, Palermo, Pelos, F, 1880/1890, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Palermo. Sicilian cart.
A man on a donkey back near a child, in the countryside of Randazzo., Unknown, 1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Randazzo. Commoners.
Carriage pulled by buffaloes, Naples, Belli, Filippo, 1860/1880, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Naples. Carriage pulled by buffaloes.
Portrait of a family on a typical painted sicilian cart, Alinari, Fratelli, 1875/1900, From the collection of: Alinari Archives
Palermo. Sicilian cart.

We finished this short journey through pictures in everyday life, traditions and customs of Italy's past.

A path which today perhaps surprises us and makes us smile but that is a witness of the cultural roots and  rich in hints for the present and the future.

Credits: Story

Curatore scientifico — Monica Maffioli 
Curatore contenuti web — Federica  Rabaglietti - Web Specialist
Direzione esecutiva — Paola de Polo -  F.lli Alinari I.D.E.A.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
Google apps