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Queensland Museum

Italian Collection

Bocce Glazed earthenware vase Italian songbook Button key accordion Venetian goblet Italian reader
Bocce

Bocce

Bocce was first played in Italy. It is a precision sport similar to lawn bowls. Bocce is a popular game often played in a park, at the beach or in the backyard. It can be played competitively and Queensland has a state team.

Object description

This bocce ball is made of metal with lines engraved in even patterns around it. It has a gold/brass colouring. Bocce balls are round in shape and they roll evenly without bias.

Bocce is normally played on soil or asphalt courts measuring 20 to 27 metres in length and 2.5 to 4 metres wide. Wooden boards often surround the court. Players have to roll their bocce ball to try to get closest to a small white or yellow target ball called the pallino. Sometimes an opponent’s ball is knocked out of the way in the process.

History

This game dates back to ancient Roman times. Bocce is played mainly in Southern Europe and was brought to countries around the world by Italian migrants.

Glazed earthenware vase

Glazed earthenware vase

This pottery vase has been glazed and hand-painted with large blue flowers. It could hold beautiful long-stemmed flowers. Great skill was needed to mould and paint these vases.

Object description

This is a red earthenware vase covered with a mottled pale blue glaze. It has large blue and gold-coated flowers and a scalloped gold-coated rim. It stands 43cm tall and is 18cm in diameter at the top. It was manufactured in Italy and collected by Benjamin Ronalds (1892-1970).

History

Mr Ronalds set up the Decorative Glass Company in Vulture Street, Brisbane in 1924. He collected fine china and glassware locally and from overseas. This piece of Italian pottery and an extensive glassware collection was donated to the Queensland Museum in 1976. It is one of about 800 items in the Ben Ronalds’ Collection.

The production of pottery is one of the most ancient arts. Today the making of decorated ceramics (or Majolica) remains the same as it did over 500 years ago. The process requires shaping the clay, firing, glazing, hand painting and then a final firing. Glazing is needed for practical and decorative reasons. The glaze makes pottery water-proof.

Italian songbook

Italian songbook

This small Italian songbook fits into the palm of an adult’s hand. It contains lyrics (words) for many Italian folk songs that were popular over 60 years ago. The title ‘Le piu` belle canzoni di Mezzo Secolo 1900-1950’ means ‘The most beautiful songs of half a century 1900-1950’.

Object description

This Italian songbook has a hard cover and measures 8cm × 12cm. The front cover has a picture of three women dressed in different costumes. It is a first volume. There is green lettering along the spine of the book. The back cover has an image of an ‘M’ intertwined with a treble clef enclosed in a circle.

History

The book was made by a company from Milan called Messagerie Musicali. It still produces songbooks today. It is owned by the Mondadori chain and is located at the same address as on the front of the book. It is the largest Music and Media store in Italy.

This songbook belonged to an Italian migrant family, the Di Blasi family. They settled in Moresby, North Queensland in 1915. They used this book for family singing sessions as music was an important part of their family life. The Di Blasi family sang many Italian folk songs during their time in Queensland. Mrs Di Blasi and her daughter Jennie went on a return visit to Italy in 1966. They enjoyed seeking out recordings of these old tunes in music shops in Rome. Jennie Di Blasi donated this songbook from her childhood, together with many of her family’s artefacts to the Queensland Museum in 1999.

Button key accordion

Button key accordion

This is a button key accordion made by the company Marrazza in Italy. It is a portable musical instrument which uses buttons instead of piano-style keys. The melody is played on the buttons on the right-hand side. The base and pre-set chord buttons are on the left-hand side.

Object description

The instrument is made of lacquered wood, metal, plastic, leather and cloth. There is a curved rectangular body with a jutting keyboard. It has twenty-one treble buttons and nine bass ones. There are bellows through which air is pumped. Two shoulder straps secure the instrument to the body. This accordion is operated by air pressure and belongs to a group of instruments called aerophones. Sound is produced by steel reeds. These vibrate when air is forced through them by the hand-pumped bellows.

History

Cyril Damian designed the accordion in 1829. The design was patented in Vienna. An Italian, Paolo Soprani, improved the design and Mariano Dallape added some more innovations. This evolved into the modern accordion. Several production centres were set up in Italy by different operators. Considerable numbers of accordions were produced in Stradella near Pavia. Production increased greatly and Italy exported 200,000 instruments at the peak of production in 1953.

Venetian goblet

Venetian goblet

This vase or goblet was made in Italy in the early 19th century. It is made of Venetian glass and decorated with birds and fish. It may have been used as a wine glass or as a beautiful ornament.

Object description

The base is slightly raised with a cone-like bowl decorated with blue and brown enamel. The bowl has two pairs of fish with tails intertwined in colours of blue, pale yellow and brown. Between them is a bird and a lion. The top is trimmed with gold and white. This item is part of the Ben Ronalds’ Collection.

History

Venetian glass is made in Venice, Italy, on the island of Murano. It is known throughout the world for being colourful and skilfully made. The glassware is made from silica and other materials. When this is heated it becomes liquid. As it cools to a solid state, it becomes soft and pliable. The glass-master can shape the molten glass into beautiful pieces.

Local artisans use special tools for this. They include: borselle (tongs to hand-form the red-hot glass); canna da soffio (a blowing pipe); pontello (an iron rod that helps with adding the finishing touches); scagno (a work bench); and tagianti (glass-cutting clippers).

Italian Reader

Italian reader

This is a children’s reading book which is more than 70 years old. The text (language) is in Italian. In the early 1900s, many Italian families left Italy to move to different countries around the world. This book of stories was read by children in their new country.

Object description

This is an Italian reading book for primary-aged children. It was produced by the Italian Mussolini government in 1933. It measures 18cm × 24cm. The title of the book is Letture, Classe Terza, Scuole Italiane All’Estero. This translates as Reading Book, for Third Grade, Italian Schools Abroad. The spine is bound in blue. The illustration on the front cover is of electric power lines.

History

This Italian school reading book was one of two readers sent from Italy to Jennie Di Blasi and her sister. The Di Blasi family migrated to Moresby, North Queensland in 1915. Italian migrant children like Jennie Di Blasi and her sister would have read this book to help further their Italian language studies.  Jennie Di Blasi donated this Italian reader from her childhood, together with many of her family’s artefacts to the Queensland Museum in 1999.