The Spanish Sephardic Jews and the Italian Silk Manufacture in the Early Modern Ages


  • Alberta Toniolo



A considerable number of the Jews who left Hispanic Kingdoms after the expulsion decree of 1492 were artisans and merchants specialized in the production and sale of silk fabrics. Their arrival in different States of Italian Peninsula contributed to the formation and achievement of a cloths manufacture (taffetas, veils and gauzes) of Spanish origin. This review emphasizes on Jews and New Christians role in working of light silk cloths in late Middle Ages iberian territories. It also examines the technical distinctive feature of their production means and finished goods to demonstrate their penetration in Italy and the continuity of that productive technology and pattern. Some Italian Princes offered protection and privileges to the sephardic immigrants, with the purpose of developing own silk industry (the Dukes of Ferrara, for example). In other cities (like Naples, Milan and Bologna) the commercial success of the new kind of cloths determined a partia1 reconversion of the local silk manufactures.