Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Costumer's Manifesto: The 16th Century Part 2

salamander pendant via The Victoria & Albert Museum

“The body of this salamander consists of a large ‘baroque’ or irregular-shaped pearl. Baroque pearls presented the jeweller with an opportunity to demonstrate their skill at adapting an object formed by nature to the requirements of Renaissance fashion. White pearls set in mounts became the height of fashion in the later sixteenth century and irregular-shaped specimens were as highly prized as perfectly spherical examples.

The belief that the salamander, a small amphibious creature resembling a lizard, was impervious to fire and could extinguish flames was recorded by Aristotle and Pliny. It became an attribute of fire personified and as such was associated with the condition of the ardent lover. This jewel may well have been an expensive love token given to a man or a woman.”

“The Gatacre Jewel” aka “The Fair Maiden of Gatacre” ca. 1550-1560 via The Victoria & Albert Museum
“This pendant has several alterations.The pearl drops are replacements and the enamelled plate at the back was removed and reinstated upside down at some stage. The cameo is likely to have been made in the Renaissance and the setting around 1550 to 1560, perhaps in England. The jewel belonged to the Gatacre family of Shropshire. It was known as the ‘Fair Maid of Gatacre’ after Mary (born 1509), daughter of Sir Robert Gatacre. According to family tradition, she was ‘a great beauty both in face and character’.”
“The Pelican in her Piety” pendant ca. 1550-1575 via The victora & Albert Museum
“This enamelled gold pendant represents a subject known as ‘The Pelican in her Piety’. It refers to the medieval fable of the pelican drawing blood from its own breast to feed its young. This image is used to symbolise Christ sacrificing himself on the cross to redeem the world’s sins. The pendant was once in the Treasury of the Cathedral of the Virgin of the Pillar in Saragossa, Spain.”
necklace ca. 1540 via The Victoria & Albert Museum
“The chain is composed of eight groups of seven and one group of ten rosette shaped links enamelled in black between cloisons. Plain twisted gold wire links connect the rosettes. Interspaced between the groups of rosette links, are nine rectangular oblong links in gold enamelled white and painted in Roman capitals UBI AMOR IBI FIDES.
Because of the nature of the inscription on the chain, it is likely that it was a wedding present. Jewellery was part of the many presents given to the future bride and as many of the gifts it could be inscribed with the initials of the new couple, with their family coats of arms or, like here, with amorous mottos.”
ring ca. 1550 via The Victoria & Albert Museum
“This extremely small ring probably belonged to a child. It is set with a turquoise, long reputed to have protective and talismanic qualities. It was considered to protect the wearer from harm and to reflect the health of its wearer. Turquoise was also believed to restore harmony between husbands and wives. The Cambridge scholar Thomas Nicols’s 1659 A Lapidary or History of Precious stones claimed that turquoise was not only a delight to the eye but strengthened the sight and renewed the bond between man and wife.
The number of small turquoise rings that survive may suggest that the stone had some particularly beneficial or protective effect for young children.”
silk velvet fragment via The Victoria & Albert Museum
“Velvet was considered the most precious of all woven textiles during the fifteenth century. Its soft and luxurious feel, the rich and deepening effect it lent to any colour, and its versatility, made it the chosen fabric of the rich and powerful. The sinuous pattern of roses and entwining branches seen here was a popular one and assumed many variations; roses were associated with the Virgin Mary and Venus and symbolised virtue, love and beauty. This velvet is comparatively light in weight, suggesting that it would have been used for clothing; velvet draped well and greatly enhanced the silhouette of the wearer.”
knit vest via The Museum of London
“Knitted short sleeved woollen vest. The wool is brown. Knitted shirts or vests are mentioned in a list of knitted items in an act of 1552, limiting the times that wool could be bought and sold. This child’s knitted wool vest was found at Finsbury in London. This item is a rare survival of a knitted garment from this period. It is seamless, suggesting it was knitted on four needles, a very old technique.”
 This actually looks a lot like the vest I’m knitting for myself right now!

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