Textiles and Toothpicks: Sardinian Ethnography in Cagliari

Ethnographic Museum, Museo Etnografico Regionale – Collezione Cocco, Cagliari, Sardinia

Due to its position in the Mediterranean, Sardinia has a unique and interesting culture.  Life along the coast is different to life in the rugged interior of the island, and through everyday items it’s easy to see the tastes and preoccupations of Sardinians across the island.

This collection on show in the heart of Cagliari was assembled by a magistrate, Luigi Cocco (1883-1959), who spent over thirty years assembling objects from around Sardinia.  The objects date mainly from the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, and encompass the visual arts of everyday life: textiles, jewellery, furniture and utensils.

View of the Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

The jewellery is mainly undated, but shows off the popular traditional styles worn by Sardinian women for centuries.  Some items are very simple, others are beautiful.  The fact that most of them served a double purpose of being amulets is particularly interesting.

Reliquary, Agnus Dei, undated, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Rosary, undated, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Chains, undated, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Chain with bird, undated, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

It’s also weird that ear-cleaners and toothpicks were so popular as well…

Toothpick and ear-cleaner (amulet), undated, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Toothpick and ear-cleaner (amulet), undated, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Toothpick and ear-cleaner (amulet), undated, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Toothpick and ear-cleaner (amulet), undated, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Amulet, possibly also a perfume container, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Amulet, possibly also a perfume container, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

The amazing textile collection is from central and southern Sardinia and consists of decorated fabrics created for a range of practical purposes: they were used as blankets, chest covers, table covers, saddle bags, decoration… 

Some of the patterns were just too adorable, particularly when they involved horses and people.

Detail of the black details cover, end of 18th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Black details cover, end of 18th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of the bird from the red cherub cover, end of 19th/20th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Red cherub cover, end of 19th/20th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Brown cover, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of the ‘soldier’ cover, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of the red horses cover, 1861, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of the black details cover, end of 18th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Light blue ornamental strips, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Ornamental strips, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of a Cover, 1880, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of the cherubs from the brown cover, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Blue and yellow ornamental strip (with sheep and birds), 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Delicate blue and white ornamental strip, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Ornamental strips in blues and reds, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Dark blue ornamental strips, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Linen net cloth, beginning of 20th century, Ittiri, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Blue and yellow ornamental strip (with giant birds and people), 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Blue and yellow ornamental strip (with giant birds and people), 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of a smoker on the flask, undated, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Flask, undated, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Animal collars, end of 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Haversack/Saddlebag, 1813, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia. It says “Frongia Lampis Pasquale” on one side the other, “Anno 1813 in Arbus Dio mi aiut(i)”.

Animal Cup, undated, Ittiri, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Snake cup, undated, Ittiri, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Toothpick holder, undated, Ittiri, pear-wood, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Pipe in the form of a man, undated, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of horses from the Primary Colours Cover, beginning of 20th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of horses from the Primary Colours Cover, beginning of 20th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of the subdued coloured Cover, end of 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia. Note the eastern style vases and flowers at the bottom.

Detail of the subdued coloured Cover, end of 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia. Note the eastern style vases and flowers at the bottom.

Detail of the fluffy edged Cover, beginning of 20th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Fluffy edged Cover, beginning of 20th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Statuette of a nun, undated, Oristano, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Ornamental textile strip, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of a cheerful and colourful Cover, end of 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of a cheerful and colourful Cover, end of 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Ornamental strip and Blanket, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of the stitching on the White Blanket, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

White Blanket, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Black Blanket, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Powder horn depicting St Michael, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Multicoloured Cover, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail from the multicoloured cover, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of a peacock on the White Blanket, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of a stag on the White Blanket, 19th century, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

View of the Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of the wooden chest, end of 19th century, from Barbagia, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Detail of the bird on the wooden chest, end of 19th century, from Barbagia, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

Wooden Chest, end of 19th century, from Barbagia, Ethnographic Museum, Cagliari, Sardinia

So In Summary

The museum has some beautiful textiles and some curious and fun objects that show the ‘everyday’ side to Sardinian life.  It was however disappointing to find quite a few empty cabinets and to have all the information only available in Italian.  It’s a shame, because there’s real potential here to give a proper overview of Sardinian life and traditions – something I was expecting from the museum’s name and indeed its location.  It’s in the Citadel museum complex and therefore you’d have thought that they’d have had a more thorough exhibition, including household objects, furniture or costumes, perhaps, that would have given a broader insight into life on the island.

Basically, if you aren’t too interested in fabrics, and are short of time, then you can probably give this museum a miss.

Further Information

According to information on the internet, the museum was meant to be free.  I was charged.

There is a website, though it’s only in Italian and not very informative: www.isresardegna.it

How to Get There

The museum is by the National Gallery of Art on the Citadel of Museums.  It’s easy to walk there from the old centre of Cagliari, but it is on a steep hill, so you may prefer to take a bus.  The transport website for Cagliari is not very user-friendly for the non-Italian speaker.  So, here is the city’s official transport website: www.ctmcagliari.it – this page has some English information on Cagliari buses generally.  Here is a pdf of the bus map: Mappa della rete pdf

Now you’ve worked out what route you want to take, pop over here for a list of the bus numbers so you can see the schedule of your bus.

Yes, it’s that simple.

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