Archives for posts with tag: renaissance

El Greco. (The lady in a fur wrap), 1580 Glasgow mus e galls.

El Greco, Lady in fur, 1580s, Glasgow museums and galleries, Scotland

El Greco’s enigmatic lady is wrapped up in a black cape, with a thick fur lining and generous collar – probably a traveling cloak.

A post on fur has been a long time coming. I have been so wrapped up (!) in other projects – including research into the wearing of fur – that I have been silent far too long. Today I want to dedicate this post to the warmth of fur.

For the past 50 odd years the wearing of animal fur has ignited much controversy, but  despite that, the industry has continued to exist and even flourish in certain decades. Today we could say that there has been a democratization process around the fur discourse. You like it you wear it, if you don’t you don’t.  Simple. Being political in fashion is not so cool right now. The social history of fur is rich and fascinating and I hope to explore some of its aspects in this and other posts.

I have little doubt that humans started wearing fur for warmth. (The fact that you had to be really strong and fearless to kill the animals that would yield the fur, and the implications of that within the social group is also interesting but I will discuss that in a later post about the social significance of the wearing of fur).

I have selected a series of images which, I hope, will reflect the need (and dare I say the pleasure) of wearing fur in really cold climates.

The 16th Century is THE century for fur fashion. Quality fur was a status symbol and it was a hugely lucrative business with well-established trade routes – the luxury furs coming west from Russia. But as fur became increasingly popular, local industries emerged, farming all sorts of animals which brought onto the market a great range of different furs in terms of colour, appearance and of course cost. By the later 1500s most people could afford to line a cloak or a coat with fur. So as well as being a status symbol, fur was also a fashion and lastly it was wonderfully warm.

Italian Renaissance artists took great pleasure in representing fur by 1500, just as the portrait genre began to acquire new psychological depth and attention to realism of detail. Enveloping – male or female – sitters in rich furs was a way of showing their wealth but also the technical capacity of the painter. The fur, along with the clothing, accessories and jewels, added importance and significance to the portrait.

The Venetian and the Lombard artists were particularly good at doing fur:

Moretto da Brescia Bonvicino Alessandro, uomo forse Fortunato Martinengo Cesaresco, 1522, nat gal lon

Moretto da Brescia, gentleman, 1522c, National Gallery, London, UK

artista lombardo,gentiluomo,1540c,met NY

Lombard artist, gentleman, 1540c, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

Thick linings for over garments in velvet, silk or wool were worn by both men and women during the century – the collar and lapels turned over to ‘show off’ the inside.

Moretto da Brescia Bonvicino Alessandro, donna come Sta Agnese, pc Svizzera

Moretto da Brescia, Lady as saint Agnes,1550s, p.c.

These gowns were not necessarily for wearing outdoors, but also to keep warm inside the scarcely heated palaces of the time. We get to see these fur-lined gowns in some of the more ambiguous portraits of the time. Portraits of young brides on their way to the nuptial bed or courtesans?

1506 Giorgione (Giorgio Barbarelli from Castelfranco 1477-1510) Portrait of a Young Woman, Laura

Giorgione, young lady, 1506c, Kunsthistoriches museum, Vienna, Austria

Tiziano, ragazza con soprabito pelliccia,1535,KM Vienna

Tizziano, young lady wrapped in fur gown, 1535, Kunsthistoriches museum, Vienna, Austria

These loose-fitting over gowns were known as ‘night gowns’ in England. Queen Elisabeth has several of them made throughout her reign. The name comes from its original use as a bed chamber  ‘dressing gown’, but by the 1550s it had become acceptable wear around the palace for less formal occasions. Queen Elisabeth I was very receptive to foreign fashions and at this point long loose gowns were being worn all over Europe as well as Muslim countries, in her inventories we find Italian, French, German, Spanish and even Polish gowns.

Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex, 1565c, Sidney Sussex college cambridge

Anon, Frances Sidney Countess of Sussex, 1565-70c, Sidney Sussex college, Cambridge University, UK

Countess Sussex (Queen Elisabeth’s Lady of the bed-chamber) here wears a more formal version of the fur-lined gown. It is made of silk velvet displaying the family’s heraldic motif. This would have been a garment made for a  specific formal occasion in deep winter and is therefore lined in warm fur. The fur is ermine which was of course a symbol of royalty/aristocracy.

Northern artists were a little less enamoured with the tactile aspect of fur compared to the italians, but made a good job of representing it.

In the 1600s  the Dutch artist Peter Paul Rubens brought together the Italian cinquecento tradition and his own Dutch roots in this powerful portrait

Rubens, The fur, 1630s, Kunst, Vienna

P.P.Rubens, the fur, 1630s, Kunsthistorisches museum, Vienna, Austria

Here the pale pinky flesh of Rubens’s lover contrast with the dark velvet and fur of the gown. An intense, even erotic combination which leaves no doubts as to the nature of their relationship.

Rothko_No_14

Mark Rothko

Back to the topic of colour combinations, this time its red and blue, an all-time fashion favorite. Why? The hot red is perfectly balanced out by the cold blue. Its bold, clean and sharp to look at. This combination really needs bright, natural sun light to set it off, therefore usually seen in spring and summer outfits.

And it seems they understood this very well in the Renaissance:

Palma Vecchio, La bella,

Palma il Vecchio, La bella, 1518-20c,Thyssen-Bornemisza Coll, Madrid, Spain

A slight variant of red and deep purple from later in the 1500s:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Trachten buch, Habitus praecipuorum, Neapolitan lady, 1577

Despite the invention of artificial dyes in 1853 (when just about any daring colour combination became possible) red and blue remained a constant of the 1800s and the 1900s:

Englishwoman's domestic magazine,sept 1869

Englishwoman’s domestic magazine, fashion plate, September 1869

Philippe Poittier, L'Officiel, 1963, C.Dior

L’Officiel, photo: P. Poittier, outfit: C.Dior, 1963

Men’s fashion is not immune to this colour combination either, although as we can see in the examples below, there is also an element of sports uniform (especially in the stripe motif)

hs162-redbl.jpgred and blue sock Cordings uk

Cordings, Uk, striped sock, 2014

Nike Air jordan retro

Nike, Air Jordan retro

And finally a non-western take on this colour combination: shades of red/fuchsia and blues as used by Tibetan monks still today

tibet,monaco in preghiera

Just shows that clothing and colour can be a spiritual experience, some combinations can have a deep emotional impact on wearer and onlooker.

 

B0090P 0051

Felice Casorati, the red jacket, 1939, MART Rovereto, Italy

 

In this, and the following posts, I shall let my selection of images speak for itself. Colour can be quite fascinating, especially when worn in contrasting combinations.

I will begin with a personal favourite of mine: red and burgundy. The brightness of the red is reflected yet absorbed by the muted tone of the burgundy. Exciting.

mark-rothko1

Mark Rothko

Back in the Renaissance it was actually men who favoured this colour combination

D.Ghirlandaio,man,met NY

Domenico Ghirlandaio, man,  15th century, Metropolitan museum New York USA

Alfonso I d'Este,Duca di Ferrara marito Lucrezia Borgia

 

Dosso Dossi, Alfonso I d’Este Duke of Ferrara

By the 1800s, initially due to Romanticism and Renaissance revival,  it was very popular with women too

56.54.1 096

J.E. Millais, actress Kate Dolan impersonating Portia, 1886, Metropolitan  museum, New York

J.S.Sargent, Ena e Betty Wertheimer,1901,tate

John Singer Sargent, Ena and Betty Wertheimer, 1901, Tate Britain, UK

In the above portrait, the contrasting combination of colours is not in the actual dress – which is a rich light burgundy –  but it’s created by the eye-catching red flowers worn in the sensual dark hair of the sitter.

Charles James,evening dress,1949,Kent state uni usa

 

Charles James, evening dress in silk and velvet, 1949, Kent State university collection, USA

Fashion Italy 1960

Sorelle Fontana atelier Rome, Wool and velvet day suit, 1960 (1960 Italian fashion magazine photo)

nike 2014

Nike sports shoe, 2014

Benozzo Gozzoli,affreschi S.Agostino, S.Sebastiano1464-5,S.Giminiano

Benozzo Gozzoli, Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, 1465c, San Giminiano, Italy

It’s not an easy topic to cover, underpants…

As the word implies they are ‘under’ pants or trousers or breeches, according to which era you are looking at. Investigating the history of Renaissance men’s underpants is complex. Primary sources are scarce: practically no surviving underpants, some documentary sources and limited visual material.

In Christian medieval Europe, representing naked – or nearly naked – men was frowned upon. Things got better with the Renaissance and the revival of classical ideals of beauty. Portraying nakedness in the name of art was not only acceptable, but became fashionable among Italian Renaissance artists especially. As most art commissions were still religious, artists had to find the appropriate themes where they could include naked bodies (which by the end of the 1400s they were studying assiduously and reaching exhilarating results. See Michelangelo Buonarroti).   ‘Christ on the cross’ was popular , but in terms of dress, not useful to us as the figure of Christ followed an iconographic convention which showed him naked with a cloth draped across his loins. Fortunately, Renaissance artists liked to place religious themes and stories within a contemporary context. Thus we have representations of saints being flogged, stoned, burned and, as in the case of Saint Sebastian, shot with arrows at close range.  Usually these saints are represented as normal citizens, stripped down to their underwear. For a dress historian this is as close to a real pair of Renaissance men’s underpants as one gets.

A survey of images of semi naked saints produced between the 1400s and the 1500s brought some interesting results: two types of underpants seem to have been in use and were being represented at this time. We could say, in general terms, that the style worn was related to fashion and hence to social class. According to the perceived social class of the saint (these saints were ‘transposed’ into the contemporary with great artistic licence), they were shown wearing either baggy pants or close-fitting briefs.

Baggy pants were worn by the lower classes or by men who did not wear tight-fitting, fashionable clothes :

Giovanni di Paolo,Battesimo,1440s,Esztergom

Giovanni di Paolo, group baptism, 1445c, Esztergom cathedral,  Hungary

In the above scene the three men being baptized have stripped down (others are in the process of doing so), they wear the long-legged, gathered, linen under trousers which had been in use since barbarian  times.

A mid-way version  existed, as represented bellow:

The_Martyrdom_of_St_Sebastian

Anon Bavarian artist, Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, second half of 15th century

Saint Sebastian was usually represented as an upper class man. In this image we see that he has retained some of the dignity of his status through his fur-lined hat, still on his head. His underpants are a kind of modern-day ‘boxer short’ gathered at the waist line and reaching down to the top of his thighs. The textile used is a fine soft linen, we can imagine these shorts would not have been too bothersome under his long gown, visible on the ground under his left foot.

By the last quarter of the 1400s  European men’s fashion aimed at a very close-fitting silhouette. Doublet (jacket/coat) and hose (thigh high socks) were skin-tight. The ideal of a perfectly harmonious, healthy  and agile body was back from ancient times. Clothes reflected this ideal. As the doublet shortened, the genital area and the buttocks were in danger of becoming visible at every move, especially as tailors had not solved the mystery of how to make tight-fitting breeches(trousers). The two socks, or legs, were still  separate until the last decades of the 1400s, when they were eventually sewn together center back. The young man on the far left of the image below shows this ‘body conscious’ fashion at its best:

0168A_06A

Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, marble relief , 1480-82c, Cremona cathedral, Italy

Tailors invented a way of covering the offensive area (the preacher San Bernardino da Siena often raged against this indecent fashion from his pulpit). Tabard or poncho-like covers with a hole for the head and fabric long enough to cover up front and back. As worn by the young man in profile in the image below:

0168A_18

Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, marble relief (detail) , 1480-82c, Cremona cathedral, Italy

The same series of reliefs made for Cremona cathedral in northern Italy gives us perfect evidence of what was worn beneath this style of clothing

Amadeo Giovanni Antonio, formelle per l'arca dei martiri persiani, 1480-2c, duomo  Cremona ,part 2

Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, marble relief (detail) , 1480-82c, Cremona cathedral, Italy

Of the three saints being flogged in the above image, two wear real underpants in the ‘brief’ style. These would have been made out of  linen and cut on the bias to assure a minimum of stretch, yet reduce the bulkiness of the fabric. Perfect under the tight-fitting hose.

Northern European artists also represented saints in underpants during this period:

The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian

Mater of Jacques of Luxemburg, ill. manuscript (detail), Saint Sebastian, ,1466-70, J.P. Getty museum USA

In the above image the artist is careful to represent the construction of the underpants: there is a central section gathered at the waist to create a sort of ‘pouch’, while the rest is smooth and probably cut on the bias.

master of the acts of mercy,austrian,martydom st Lawrence,1465c,met NY

Master of the acts of mercy, Austrian, martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, 1465c, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York USA

The artist of the above image represents tiny briefs in a dark colour, unusual but not unique:

anon german woodblock, St Sebastian

Anon, hand coloured  wood block print, 1460-70c, Munich, Germany

The only surviving pair of briefs I have found from this period is Austrian and it is believed to have belonged to a woman as it was found alongside a bra-like garment. After seeing so many ‘briefs’ worn by men during this period maybe we should not take it for granted that these were a specifically female garment. Maybe there is an interesting story behind these pants too.

pants, Austria Lengberg Castle, 15th century

 

Linen underpants, found at Lengberg castle, Austria. 15th Century.

C.Tagliavini, 1503, Cecilia 2014

Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Cecilia, 2011

People sometimes ask me why I do what I do. Recently I found myself in a complex discussion where I was defending my line of work, ultimately justifying the hours spent by dress historians looking at a neckline, or the lining of a gown or the height of an eighteenth century heel. I was being challenged on the utility of it all – do we really need to know these minute details of everyday life of the past?

isn’t fashion projected into the future by its very essence? if so why do we need to teach young fashion or costume designers about their heritage?

Maybe the answers to the above are all here, in these mesmerizing and simply beautiful works of contemporary art.

For this post I have chosen to share the work of a very interesting – to me – young photographer. Especially a recent series entitled “1503”.

C.Tagliavini, 1503, ritratto di signora in verde 2014

Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Signora in verde, 2011

C.Tagliavini, 1503, Donna Clotilde 2014

Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Donna Clotilde, 2011

C.Tagliavini, 1503, Lucrezia 2014

Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Lucrezia, 2011

C.Tagliavini, 1503, Bartolomeo 2014

Christian Tagliavini, 1503 Bartolomeo, 2011

Enough said I think.

his website:     www. christiantagliavini.com

 

ventaglio,punched skin leaf,ivory,1590-1600, MFA Boston

Punched leather and ivory fan, 1590-1600c, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA

Can fashion make a noise? Can what we wear and the way we wear it make specific noises?

Probably the first type of sound we associate with fashion today is some form of music. The extra loud music of fashion shows or the background melodies of department stores. Nowadays music is also an essential part of fashion advertising, it forms the sensorial backdrop that sticks in potential customers’ minds.

What about the noise that fashion items (clothes, shoes, hats, fans, etc.) actually make when we wear them? Are these sounds distinctive and recognizable? Are they instinctively associated with  a particular item or even style throughout history?

Here is a selection of items which make or made, each in their specific fashion eras, a bit of a noise:

THE 1500s

During the pre-industrial  era sounds and sound perception would have been quite different from today (just like the perception of light and darkness would have been different in pre-electricity days). So when looking at these objects we should take into consideration that the noise pollution surrounding the wearer and the listener, would have been made up of other types of sounds from those we are familiar with today.

THE METAL CORSET

corsetto metallo, lombardia 1560-80,MPP mi

Metal corset, Italian, 1560-80c, Poldi Pezzoli museum, Milan, IT

This type of metal corset was quite common amongst upper class women from the middle of the 16th Century (examples survive in museums around Europe). As we can see by looking at the right hand vertical edge, there are two sets of hinges center back. The corset therefore was front opening (it has a small clasp at the front to keep it closed). We can imagine that if the hinges were not kept well oiled,  it would have made a screechy  jarring noise on opening and closing it. Not a pleasant sound.  But then not a very pleasant fashion item.

THE FAN

Tiziano, ragazza con ventaglio,1556,G Dresden

Titian, Girl with fan, 1556c, Gemaldegalerie, Dresden

Fans were very popular in the 1500s, as they still are today in many countries around the world. Back then, women (who were wearing  those rigid corsets and tightly laced bodices) would have suffered from the lack of air in a crowded room, an overly incensed church interior or simply the heat of the  summer months. Fans were functional as well as decorative. In a previous post I mentioned 16th century  feather fans, but before and alongside these, many women used paper fans such as the one used by the young woman in Titian’s painting . We can imagine the swoosh swoosh noise as she flips it back and forth between her fingers.

 

CHOPINS (platform slippers)

These were a form of female footwear which (in one form or another) became fashionable in various countries in Europe during the 16th century. They were essentially a very sophisticated version of the wooden clog worn by peasants everywhere throughout the middle ages and beyond.

chopines, veneziane, XVI sec, castello sforzesco MI

Chopins, leather covered wood platform sole, punched leather uppers,16th Century, Civiche Raccolte Arte Applicata, Milan, IT

These chopins in the Castello  Sforzesco museum in Milan are of a moderate height (much higher ones were the norm in Venice at this time – examples can be seen at the Costume museum in Palazzo Mocenigo, Venice). Yet they are interesting for the shape of the base – it resembles an animal’s hoof (possibly an elephant’s). The wide base provided some stability to a very precarious piece of footwear. The upper is so short and the back of the heel so narrow, that one wonders just how the lady could walk in them. Throughout the wooden clog-wearing centuries, people must have been used to a certain degree of noise emanating from them. They were generally worn out of doors on packed earth roads or in some areas even  paved streets from Roman times. A common sound associated with the lower classes. If I have to imagine the sound that these chopins created, I think of a muffled thud thud noise. An aristocratic sound of covered wood gently thumping down on terracotta or tiled floors, as the lady – swiftly lifting the hem of her dress so as not to trip – walked through the halls of her palazzo.

woman-washing-her-hair

Women washing their hair appears to be a constant subject matter in the history of art, chosen by artists worldwide over the centuries.

So why did (and do) artists return to this subject matter again and again? I may not have the answer here and now, but I have noticed that some artists prefer to show the face, others to hide it. This is a relevant aspect as it ultimately gives us a clue to the cultural context that the work is coming from.

Male artist/female model  is the predominant scenario we are faced with. When  the artist decides to hide the woman’s face, he is acting as passive onlooker . In this case,  we as viewers, are invited to share a voyeuristic,  peep from-the-keyhole moment with the artist. This leaves me (as a woman) uneasy with the work of art, however beautifully produced. The word ‘objectification’ comes to mind…

In many works however we do find a different perspective. Male artist/female model, but the model’s face is visible, occasionally even turned to look at the viewer. In this case we – male or female onlooker – are invited to watch the private ritual taking place. The turn of the head can make the difference between consuming the image and willingly sharing the moment. A moment which can be of sheer beauty (the fluid curves of the body and the pure sensuality of the tactile experience, the fingers running through the strands of wet hair) mixed with the intimacy of the act, all make for a beautiful  aesthetic experience.

A.Allori,affresco,donne al balcone che lavano i capelli, 1589, loggetta di Palazzo Pitti FI

Alessandro Allori, frescoed ceiling,1589,  Logetta of Pitti Place, Florence IT

The above image is probably the first truly celebratory representation in western art of women washing their hair.  Before the Italian Renaissance, female hair had been literally hidden from sight. It was taboo to show it, let alone represent the washing of it. Allori seems to have been very taken with women in this private and informal state, he is inspired by it for a religious painting of the following year where the Madonna is shown with her hair down and a linen towel still draped across her shoulders as though caught in the act.

A.Allori,madonna incoronata da bambin gesu, 1590,Palazzo Pitti FI

A. Allori, the Madonna crowned by Baby Jesus, 1590, Palazzo Pitti gallery, Florence IT

Documentary evidence tells us that during the 1500s high-ranking Italian ladies used to reserve a day of the week for hair washing.  A strictly female, informal, moment where women socialized and relaxed, as well as washed their hair. The hair would be dried in front of the fire while chatting the time away. The image below represents just such a moment

Guercino, two women drying their hair in front of a fire, 1636c, c.I. art lon UK

Guercino, two women drying their hair in front of a fire, 1636c, Courtauld Institute,  London UK

The fact that Guercino is there, observing, brings us back to the question  of why artists wanted to represent this subject matter. The need to know the secret, to know what really happens during this all female ritual? Or does it become an excuse to draw the female body in such an interesting position?

Japanese artists have often returned to this theme in art:

Suzuki Harunobu, two women washing their hair, 1767-68, MFA boston

Suzuki Harunobu, two women washing their hair, 1767-8, Mus of Fine Arts Boston, USA

And early 20th century Japanese artist Hashiguchi Goyo:

Hashiguchi Goyo, woman washing her hair, 1920, MFA Boston

washing the hair…

Goyo_Hashiguchi-No_Series-Woman_Combing_her_Hair-00034149-110225-F12

combing the wet hair through…

Russian émigré artist Aleksander Yakovlev:

Aleksandr Yakovlev, model washing her hair, 1929, Brooklyn mus NY

Aleksander Yakovlev, model washing her hair, 1929, Brooklyn museum, New York USA

And London artist Walter R. Sickert who paints a french model in Paris, but decides not to show us the head at all…

Woman Washing her Hair 1906 by Walter Richard Sickert 1860-1942

The presence of feathers in fashionable European dress does not become apparent until the 16th century. When feathers appear they are not on the dress but in the form of accessories, in particular ladies’ fans. These feathers are testimony to the growing interest for exotic objects coming from overseas as well as the ever-increasing desire for public display of personal wealth. Luxury fashion taken to extremes both by women and men.

gilt brass fan handle, 1550c, venice, V&A

Metal (gilt brass) fan handle, probably made in Venice circa 1550, Victoria and Albert  museum, London, UK

By the 1540s a new fashion trend had emerged as we can see from the portraits below, all from northern Italy (evidence of this trend elsewhere in the next post). Hand-held fans made out of a gold frame and large, soft exotic feathers. They were worn hanging from the waist on a gold chain and would be occasionally picked up and used. In the portraits of the period they were luxury statement pieces, attesting to the level of sophistication and wealth of the sitter. They were as important as the silk, embroidery and overall fashionableness of the dress worn. The feathers used tended to be ostrich, either black (see below) or white or dyed in other colours. At the same time as this trend is taking place we also have a strong presence of ostrich eggs being used by European craftsmen. Nothing wasted. Other feathers such as swan’s down were used – the important thing was the sensual tactile aspect of them.

Moretto da Brescia, lady in white,1540c,Wash nat gal USA

Moretto da Brescia, Lady in white, 1540c, Washington National  Gallery, USA

L.Lotto, Laura da Pola 1543-44

Lorenzo Lotto, Laura da Pola, 1543-4c, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, IT

A few years on and Italian artisans had become even more refined –  producing two or three tone exotic feather fans for their demanding clientele

G.B.Moroni, Isotta Brembati 1552-53 (palazzo Moroni Bg)

Gian Battista Moroni, Isotta Brembati, 1552c, Palazzo Moroni, Bergamo, IT

Bernardino Campi,cremonese,dama,fine 1560s,met NY

Bernardino Campi, Lady, 1560c, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA