The history of the Venetian fabrics began with a technique that mixed silk and gold (or silver) threads, through a manual procedure. This type of weaving traces back to the ancient Greece (11th century), even if the art of silk weaving in Venice had begun two centuries earlier.
From the fabrics trade to the silk production in Venice
The only maritime Republic located on the Adriatic sea had always had a strong trading relationship with Byzantium, from where spices, ivory and silk fabrics arrived. It also had the exclusive rights to sell those luxury products in the two annual trade fairs, organised by the Franks in Pavia.
At the beginning, Venice was only interested in the trading of fine fabrics, but later began to feel a certain interest in the production and weaving of raw silk, even if limited to simple patterns.
The northern and oriental influence on silk fabrics
The silk weaving techniques improved through time thanks to the contacts with other civilisations. Some fundamental processes were revealed to the local craftsmen by Antinope, an expert weaver arrived in Venice with the court of the emperor Henry IV, who went there at the end of the XI century to visit the Doge.
Another important contribution dates back to 1269, when the Polo brothers returned to Venice from their first journey to China. From this country they brought back several goods and certainly fabrics, introducing in Venice certain technical details and the typical decorations with plants and animals used by the Chinese textile art.
Also the numerous weavers who went to the Laguna from Lucca, between 1307 and 1320, largely contributed to the development of the Venetian silk art: they made possible the production of half silks.