Watermark Project

16 March 2021

The Rotary Club of Fabriano has always shown great sensitivity and attention towards the art of watermark, an expression of the town’s cultural heritage. Our aim through this project was to give homage to this ancient art, which is universally recognized as one of Fabriano’s hallmarks.

Fabriano, the "city of paper" par excellence, has produced and distributed paper all over the world since the thirteenth century. This tradition in paper-making has allowed Fabriano to be awarded the title of Unesco creative city in 2013.

The production of artistic watermark, which is carefully handcrafted by skilled paper masters, constitutes a specialty of paper manufacturing. This art has been handed down from generation to generation up to the present.

Towards the end of 1200 watermark was used to characterize the production of each paper master and consisted in a stylized symbol that could represent different items such as crosses, animals, arrows, coats of arms or even the customer’s initials. It was therefore equivalent to a trademark. Later it also went on to indicate the quality, the country of origin and the year of production of the paper.

The art of watermark has perfected and evolved over the centuries: simple signs have gradually given way to artistic watermarks with chiaroscuro effects, often reproducing existing works of art, portraits of famous people, noble families’ coats of arms, still lifes and so on.

Over the course of centuries, watermark has been used to produce documents and hand down important and precious content, from generation to generation. Creating watermark requires time and meticulous work both by the engraver artist and the artisan who actually manufactures paper. Today, more than seven centuries later, Fabriano continues to be at the forefront in the field of watermarked paper, producing banknotes for several Countries around the world and creating artistic watermarks through refined craftsmanship.

Fabriano’s rich legacy of archival, historical and archaeological assets, related to paper production over the centuries, is collected in a valuable and historically relevant archive that includes remarkable tools and machinery, molds for the production of handmade paper, 1,200 historical photographs, a library with about 3,000 volumes and a large collection of watermarks.

The great historical heritage of watermarks preserved in the archive of Cartiere Miliani, named 'Corpus chartarum Fabriano', includes ancient specimens dating back to as far as 1293. Today it has also become digital with copies of the originals available on the web. This treasure is joined by a precious collection of 2,213 watermarks referred to as "Fabriano papers": dating from 1267 to 1798, these highly regarded watermarks were even sent to the International Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1900, where they were acclaimed as unique in the world.

Fabriano's watermark art is amongst the most important ones in Europe.

For its artistic value and as an expression of the cultural heritage of the city, Fabriano’s watermark art was nominated to be recognized as a 'Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage' in December 2019.

"The Rotary Club of Fabriano – as underlined by its president Dr. Maura Nataloni - intended to celebrate all of this by creating an object of great artistic and symbolic value, entrusting the artisan paper mill of Carifac'Arte in our city to create an artistic watermark depicting the Rotary logo on handcrafted, limited-production-run Fabriano paper. Earnings from the sale of these watermarks, set aside production costs, will be donated to the Rotary Foundation's Polio Plus fund. Looking forward while supporting our traditions, the Rotary Club of Fabriano believes that we should promote a shift towards bringing us all back to appreciate the beauty of uniqueness".

The project therefore aims at globally spreading the image of the Rotary Club of Fabriano, promoting the huge artistic and cultural heritage of its territory, sharing it and spreading it around the world. The Rotary Watermark is a precious collector’s item, which every member may keep or donate in order to originally convey the values ​​of friendship, service and peace pursued by the Club, without forgetting the purpose of raising funds for the Rotary Foundation.

With this very intent, the Governor of Rotary District 2090, Rossella Piccirilli, sent her wishes for Christmas 2020 to all the Club Presidents of the District, gifting them with the Rotary International logo and the "Four-Way Test", watermarked on fine handmade paper produced in Fabriano: a present as important in its symbolic value as precious in its simplicity.


(article published in the magazine ROTARY ITALIA/ SERVICE E PROGETTI ROTARIANI)

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