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Turning the clock back...

Museums can be quite good at this.  Luckily, long gone are the days when hundreds of things would be crowded in together, with little or no order in a case, and labels so small and dim you cannot read them...  One of the best things about the V&A is how good a view of things one can get, and how close to priceless things one may poke one's nose!

The rennaisance galleries of the V&A contain some very beautiful things and some that are just strange!  But we went there mainly to get costume pix to add to our references for a couple of jobs that may come up, so ...

There are many church-related things in this part of the museum.  And most surviving clothing is liturgical vestment.  The work-a-day clothing of ordinary people seams under-represented, until you take it's nature into account.  Think about it for a mement.  Our view of the High Medieaval and Rennaissance  eras is coloured by what has survived for us to view: most of this is in portraits, painted for the rich, the important, and religious purposes...   This is not to say that no peasants or working folk got into art: they did.  But they were often small figures working in the background, less detailed than their noble masters, and somewhat romanticized.  Little figures ploughing pristine fields in the margins of book of hours, for example.  Very little mud gets into art!

Textiles survive less readily, but those that do tend to be things that are precious: expensive cloths and embroideries, made with care and well looked after.  They survive because people recognized their value as artifacts and pieces of art from the start.  Even the evidence we have of working folk's clothing tends to come from the household accounts of great estates and the royal wardrobe!  Servants recieved clothing as part of their renumeration package, along with board and lodging.  Cash in hand was mere pocket money for some.  Their clothing could be also belong to the household rather than an individual, so when he or she finished with it, it would be reabsorbed by the household and re-issued to someone else, possibly when one person grew out of it or died.  It would be passed to a smaller person, one of lesser stauts, or one who needed less tidy clothing for their work...  In addition, cloth was all spun,  woven, and finished by hand.  It was labour-intensive and relatively expensive.  Even the cheap stuff could be more per yard that your working class lass got in her hand for a month of hard graft.  There was a HUGE used clothing industry.  This survived well into the 19th century, and garments were endlessly recycled to new owners before finally being recycled as rags and used for cleaning, made into paper, used for caulking, or whatever...

The result is that most of the surviving clothing references are of the nobility, royalty, or religious in nature.  So there follow copes and saint!

  While this has lost a lot of its colour, you can still see how richly this Madonna figure is dressed: it was the practice to dress saints nobly, and the family of Christ royally, and in the fashions of the day, a far cry from the clothing the woman would have worn or been able to afford, as the wife of a carpenter!  I love the way this gown and mantle drape, however incompatible with running after a lively toddler this would have been!  At least this infant doesn't suffer from Naked Baby Syndrome!  (How come so many depictions of Christ as an infant have him wearing nothing but a halo?  I always thought that was rather odd, and the dear nuns at my convent school had no light to shine on this important factoid!))

This rather down-in-the-mouth saint is also richly dressed, save for naked feet!  Worked in Or Nue on a rather magnificent cope:

This stole has some text woven into it, but I couldn't get a good picture of what it is...

These two are having a right old gossip!

NNaked baby Madonna!

The holes in her garments would originally have contained coloured glass 'jewels'.  This one dates from about 1350-70.

I think one of these two saints is St Catherine.  I love the little figure at the feet of the one on the right, and their far from saintly expressions!  I wonder what they are so pleased about?  The sideless gown and the pattern on the other are very fine, but I now want a gold frock!

MORE copes with little saints on!


Vestments this richly decorated were made for saint's days and other feasts and were quite often pictorial, depicting things connected with the specific feats.  They helped to tell the story as well as diplaying the wealth of the church.  Some of this sort of work was undertaken by professional embroiderers, and it cost more than it's weight in the gold bullion that went into the thread.  Some was done by nuns, and their covent would be paid for the work by the church or monastery that commissioned the work.

Here we appear to have Mary Magdalane washing Christ's feet with her rather pre-rafaelite wriggly gold hair!

This choir book was made by Don Simone Camaldelese in about 1380.  The figures are too small to give much clothing detail.

The following are from two Books of Hours.  Again, not a lot of clothing detail, though in the second, the woman on the left hand poage is wearing a henin with a veil  draped over it, and seems to have a rather fine fur collar on her gown.


stained glass windows are another good source for costume details.  Again, the saints and figures get dressed in the fashions of the day and the place they come from...

The gowns have nice detail, and the armour shows well.

These tapestry figurea are another fine way of recording fashion detail.  This is from a scene of a boar hunt, wooven in the Netherlands in about 1425-30.

I like the pattern on thwe lady's houplande.  The hunt servants are well dressed, if more plainly than their masters, as befits their station.

Another fine patterned gown, coupled with an elaborate headdress.

This gentleman's short houplande appears to be fur lined as well as dagged rountd the sleeves!

Quite a few of the men appear ro have legs of different colours!  Some also appear to be patterned.  The boar looks somewhat miffed!

There are other artifacts in this gallery, and a few took my fancy.  This elaborate glass beaker in the tooled leather case was one...  That would make a rich travelling companion!

I liked the silver spoon as well...

This is a really lovely piece of Or Nue.

I'm not sure if the garments the figures are wearing are sideless gowns or capes with arm slits...  Or even gowns with hanging sleeves.

This is anothe liturgical piece.  The figured velvet is dine wuith very fine lines.  It's done in narrow sections and pieces.  Some of the joining seams are almost invisible.

This one is a sort of chenile effect, with little Or Nue panels down the middle.


The embroidery on the mitres was, if anything, even finer.


I have to say I am very pleased at how well the pictures came out, given the light levels and reflections.  The camera was doing a splendid job.

These figures were painted on a large panel.  I couldn't get far enough away to get one of the whole thing, but i think it was some sort of fresco...


Sadly, some of the finer detail has gone, but you can see how elegant they would have been originally.

This gold filligree work is a rather splendid girdle.

These textiles were made in long panels.  They are a mix of applique and embroidery, cur velvet, and jacquard type weaves.

These figures show how some of this cloth might be used.

The next lot come from wedding chests, which would originally have gone with the brideto her new home.  They often depicted wedding scenes. 

I love the way some of the gentlemen's hose are so richly decorated!

Damn!  Now I also want a black velvet robe with a griffon on it!  That is a splendiferous garment, so it is!

I love all these busy bass relief figures.  I like the way they are all doing things.

This one is from a similar sort of chest, but the figures are just painted.  No less splendid for all that.

Figures in the dark reddish brown, like the knight in armour, would originally have been silver.  This chest is from Italy, made in the 1460's.

So there you go: depictions of medieval and rennaissance clothing, in all its most splendid glory!


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 30th, 2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
Those chests look Italian. "Cassone," singular, in that language. Are they, did the display labels say?

Loads of interesting images (paintings/frescoes) of clothing! Wonderful!

Jun. 30th, 2012 02:46 pm (UTC)
Yes, 'cassone'. They seem to be very sumptuous!

I need to explore some of the further reaches of other bits of the museum and find more of the clothing. I know they have a lot that's never been in the fashion gallery.

Edited at 2012-06-30 02:47 pm (UTC)
Jun. 30th, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC)
Those appear to be very sumptuous, yes!
I know others were less costly, but beautifully wrought.

Re: image of which you've said you don't know if the figures are wearing sideless gowns, or capes with arm slits, or hanging sleeves: the group on the left hand side is of monks (note tonsures), who would not have worn hanging sleeves.
The lady is very clearly the Virgin Mary: red mantle, blue dress. Hair quite modestly covered by a plain cloth.
I've never been able to take angels' attire too seriously, but perhaps it's worth making a study.

More than that I can't make out at the moment.
Jun. 30th, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
I think you are right about those sleeves...

The quality of work in all these artifacts is amazing.
Jun. 30th, 2012 04:13 pm (UTC)
I feel confident about those sleeves.
Monks labored. Had to labor. Hanging sleeves aren't practical.
There was a garment, I want to say from an earlier point in time, known as a "garde-corps," which was an over-'gown' with sleeves a little longer than the fingertips and sometimes as long as to the knees, and which often had slits or openings through which the arms were put as needed.
Not sure you'd have seen monks wearing a "garde-corps" in any century. (Not practical, as hanging sleeves weren't practical, either.) Abbots, on the other hand, possibly.

The short houpelande in Italian is called a "cioppa," ("CHOE-puh").
Jun. 30th, 2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
I haven't really looked into the development and distribution of hanging sleeves. My most recent encounters have been on academic gowns. So maybe cloistered monks wouldn't wear them, but later clergy working in the community did?

I hadn't got as far as checking the cioppa/houplande terminology, but suspected this was the case. Thanks for that.
Jun. 30th, 2012 04:47 pm (UTC)
M'm: "cioppa" versus "houpelande" is Italian vis-a-vis French but even with a classification of a garment in a single language, there are distinctions to be made. We speak of "cotehardies" for men and women, but the "côtehardie" was a lined men's garment. Women wore the côte simple.
Jun. 30th, 2012 11:33 pm (UTC)
Interesting... I'd always understood that for men or women the cotehardie was lined and the cote simple unlined. Not saying I'm right thinking that, but it's just what I've understood from useage.
Jun. 30th, 2012 05:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! This is very interesting.
Jun. 30th, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
Glad you like it. It was a fun day.
Jun. 30th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for sharing your photos like this. The golden filligree girdle is just what I was looking for as a possible project, and is the right time frame when I found it on the V&A collection.

There are a lot of interesting items that you have captured, giving me a better understanding of some of the embroidery techniques as well. Thanks again.
Jun. 30th, 2012 11:23 pm (UTC)
The embroidery is fantastic.
Jun. 30th, 2012 11:08 pm (UTC)
Ok, something is odd with your photo hosting site. Some of your images, that I know I saw earlier, are now not showing up at all. Just thought you should know.
Jun. 30th, 2012 11:23 pm (UTC)
They all seem to show up here... Have you tried refreshing the page?
Jul. 1st, 2012 12:18 am (UTC)
Yes, several times. I originally went to your photobucket page link where it showed up fine. I had to go back to it a short time later, and at that point it was gone with an error message that your image is not showing because it is damaged, or something like that - I can't see a broken image placeholder even on your LJ page, so I can't get back to the link to see exactly what it says.

The one I was specifically looking at was the filligree gold girdle, which is lovely (and my period). Now it, and the two above it, and a few others on the page simply do not show up even after refreshing now - a few hours later.

My thinking is that if you can see them all, then it must be a problem on my end for some odd reason. I'll check again tomorrow and see what happens.

And I found the girdle on the V&A web site, and was able to download the high quality images that is showing me a bit more on how it may have been partly woven.
Jul. 1st, 2012 07:11 am (UTC)
I've clicked in from several directions now, going direct to my LJ page, clicking on the 'see all comments' thing on your reply in my inbox, and via pinterest, and all the pics show up fine here. Thay6 also show up fine in my pinterest account, so I dunno what's going on there!

I'm glad you found the girdle. It's a very lovely thing.
Jul. 1st, 2012 01:40 pm (UTC)
>These figures show how some of this cloth might be used

WOOT! Documentary evidence for 5:00 shadow. Hee.
Jul. 1st, 2012 02:49 pm (UTC)
No five-blade Gillette's in those days!
Jul. 3rd, 2012 11:23 pm (UTC)
Your pics have returned to my monitor, so it was indeed a problem on my end (still not sure why, but glad they are back).

I've been hunting down the info on some of your images, and for the most part found them. Except for one of the textile images - photo DSCF1270.jpg. I've tried various terms hunting for it, and none of it shows up, so I am wondering if that is one of those without a photo on their site. Do you have any more info on that image to help me with my hunt?

I also found the fresco that you have two photos of. A Tournament at Brescia.
I'm fascinated by the two women, as their garments are striped, and very full without looking like it is pleated really full. I'm wondering if they are wearing farthingales underneath, but didn't think the Italian ladies generally adopted the Spanish fashion for them in 1512. But Italian garments in general are not my area of knowledge. I was wondering if I may post either a link, or a copy of your photo (with full credit to you) to a FB group where I can discuss the style with others? I will not without permission.

And thank you again for sharing your images. I'm learning a lot going through them, and through the V&A online.
Jul. 4th, 2012 05:39 am (UTC)
I'm glad they turned up again. :)

No, I have no more info about those fabrics. I took the picture with the lens pressed up against the glass!

I'm glad you found the fresco. I would imagine that the gowns would be either pleated or gathered, but too much of the surface detail has gone to tell for sure. I could get within a foot of it and you still couldn't see that detail.

Careful consideration leads me to suspect that the sleeves are pained, the bodice stripes done with trim, and the skirts cartridge pleated. That's certainly how I'd go about making something like this.

The V&A on line is a fabulous resource, I have to say. I love it.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )