Skip to main content

'Pro Italia' Silk Handkerchief

Curated Submission
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
32.6 x 30.7
Materials & techniques
Silk; Screen printed
Niagara Historical Society and Museum 2009.004.019
Designed by the Italian artist Fortunino Matania, this silk handkerchief was produced as part of the fundraising efforts for Italian Day, which took place on October 7, 1915, in London, England. The event was coordinated by several Italian organizations in London eager to demonstrate their commitment to the Allied cause during the First World War. The illustration featured on this handkerchief is one of many created during the war by Matania, who was born in 1881 to the respected Italian artist Eduardo Matania. Eduardo was employed as an artist in the publishing industry, and presumably his son learned how to draw from him. Fortunino must have picked up the family business quickly because the Italian publication L’Illustrazione began to receive submissions signed Fortunino Matania when the boy was just 14 years old.
Matania worked as an illustrator for various publishers and served for a time in the British Army, becoming a highly capable war artist during the First World War. His concern for artistic accuracy was meticulous to the point of eccentricity; he visited the front on several occasions, was provided with military equipment by the War Office, and built a replica trench in the garden of his home near London.
This design, known as “Pro Italia,” is one of 117 of Matania’s pictures that were reproduced in London’s The Sphere magazine throughout the war. His work was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1918 and in other major exhibitions in London and Italy. This handkerchief was purchased in support of the Italian Day ceremony by an individual from Niagara-on-the-Lake who was serving in Europe and sent it home as a souvenir. This artifact is unique because it includes the original box it was packaged in. Lightweight souvenirs were ideal for shipping back home, and purchasing this special silk handkerchief also made a statement about the purchaser’s commitment to the Allied cause. 
Submit a related artifact
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Pinterest Email More...

Main sponsors

  • Logo of the Imperial Oil Foundation with accompanying characteristic oval 'Esso' symbol.

Institutional partners