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FASHION HISTORYhistory

The individuality of Renaissance

19.04.2017 — by Victoria Ventonni

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The sudden and expansive burst of individuality marked the Renaissance. It could be traced by the amount of autobiographies, non-theological texts, and, of course, portraits. People felt urge to study the world around them, find their place inside it and to present themselves to society from a winning side.

Renaissance (it. Rinascimento – revival) was considered to be the bright and prosperous time after barbaric Middle Ages. After wild tribes wiping out the remains of the Great Roman Empire, Rome managed to resurrect even stronger than it was. The blood of great emperors, councils and commanders of it was thought to be running through veins of Italians, making them proud of their ancestors, history and culture. I consider it important to point out that back then Italy was not the same as it is now. Not remotely the same. It was divided into many principalities, some of them bigger and more powerful than the others were. The same language did not unite them, what makes this separation more evident.

If we were to find a moment in the history, when did the fashion start, it would be the Renaissance. The significant proof of it is the fact that during this time the word “fashion” (it.“moda”) was first used and then rapidly widespread across the Europe. The fashion, need to show the individuality and intelligence, enhance the beauty was of utmost importance. Fashion was the way not only of presenting the status, but also of highlighting the individual qualities of a person.

The cradle of Renaissance is, without any doubts, Florence – the flowering city, according to the legend told by Machiavelli in Florentine Histories (it. Istorie fiorentine) and Benvenuto Cellini in his Autobiography. Under the patronage of Medici, the city was enriched with the great masters creating masterpieces in it, adding to the glory of the notable families. One of such masters was Domenico Ghirlandaio, the contemporary of well-known Botticelli and teacher of Michelangelo. Domenico Ghirlandaio was valued among the nobilities as master with the great gift of portraiture, who could capture every tiny detail and present it later in a decent way.

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I would like to draw the attention to the portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni (dated 1488), member of one of the most important Florentine families at that time. Her profile reminds viewers of ancient Roman coins, thereby strengthening the link between noble Florentines and great romans. High forehead, golden wavy hair and long neck – these all are beauty standards of the High Renaissance. As flowing hair was still inappropriate for women, as a sign of loose morality, hair of Giovanna Tornabuoni was braided. The variety of layers, richness of fabrics and expeditious embroidery – that is the heritage of Middle Ages, which thrived in the Renaissance. All the accessories on the painting present us different sides of Giovanna’s personality: brooches indicate her social life and status, prayer book and coral rosary her devotion and Latin inscription her intelligence.

During the Renaissance, fashion was born as a combination of personal and common, indicating that person could stay himself while being a part of society. And this bond still stands.

Victoria Ventonni,

Historic of Art and Fashion

FASHION HISTORYhistory

The Medieval Variegation

07.12.2016 — by Victoria Ventonni

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Nowadays more and more people are getting interested in medieval period of our history. One of the brightest example of that is The Game of Thrones, built on medieval history, its customs and, of course, costumes.

Interesting is, during Renaissance and Classicism, Middle Ages were despised, considered to be the dark time with the reign of people who destroyed the great Roman Empire. They used the term “gothic” to describe everything barbaric, as goths were one of the tribes that destroyed Rome. Middle Ages became popular in the beginning of 19th century, when evolving Romantics found its basis in medieval heritage, enriching it with mystics, fantasies and depth of the emotional experience of the soul.

Overall, Middle Ages is indeed very vivid and different time, when the world changed constantly. Exactly then nations, which we have now, were formed, as well as there have been laid a basis for our modern languages, even modern customs were determined. It was the time, when the nations found themselves, established their borders, languages, fashions and mentality, some countries were founded and some, even very powerful once, disappeared for good.

It was also the time of mysteries, as the church had a great influence on people, on their routine and thoughts. One of the most famous and mystical works is a series of six tapestries woven in Flanders from wool and silk, from designs drawn in Paris around 1500 called Lady with the Unicorn. The public attention was drawn to them by a well-known novelist George Sand, who saw them in 1844. All were woven in wool and silk, showing a richly dressed lady flanked by a lion on her right and a unicorn on her left both bearing a banner, with a mille fleurs (thousand flowers) background containing animals and birds. Five of them depict senses: taste, hearing, sight, smell, and touch. The sixth is called “À mon seul désir” (my only desire), and it is still unknown what it means.

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” mon seul désir”

As a reaction to the cooling temperatures of the Little Ice Age, in 1500s clothes were usually voluminous and worn in several layers. In the tapestries, lady often shows us the different layers of clothing (forming the newly brought into the fashion the hourglass silhouette), all of them, however, of obviously very rich materials, including beautiful embroidery and wide use of jewels and gold. These times, clothes were seen as the mark of a status of a person, they were elaborated carefully in each detail, showing sometimes the craftsmanship of the woman of the house herself. You might read “The song of Nibelungs” (German epic poem), which is outstanding in showing medieval life, including this part of it.

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Touch

The hair of the lady is always covered, as an opposite one was considered to be a mark of sin. Her headgears consist as well of rich fabrics and precious gems. Vivid and rich clothes, worn in multiple layers by the beautiful melancholic virgin lady (legend tells that only a virgin can tame a unicorn) with many real and fantastic animals and flowers around her, all of this enriched with allegorical meaning… Not surprisingly, they are provoking a mass interest, which forms many hypothesizes and tales about this piece.

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Sight

These tapestries were mentioned a lot in books and movies, many people were charmed by their mystery, enriched with bright colors and excellent craftsmanship. Perhaps, almost everyone has seen the Harry Potter movies. At least, my generation rose on them. Have you ever noticed what hangs on the walls of the Gryffindor tower?

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Eager to hear your questions and suggestions,

Victoria Ventonni

Historic of Art and Fashion

FASHION HISTORYhistory

The Uniqueness of Rome

11.11.2016 — by Victoria Ventonni

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After talking about Greek fashion (quite briefly, however), it would be chronologically right to write about Roman. One of the greatest Empires of the world, which heritage keeps affecting us till the very present day, it indeed has its roots in Greek culture, but it has its very own way of developing.

The Greek had an ideal to follow and to look up to, perfect development of athletic body and rhetorical, philosophical mind. Romans worshipped the human himself with all his strengths and weaknesses, which were seen as special and very individual qualities. From my perspective, this could be the main difference between these cultures, which distinguished their ideologies a lot. In each Roman house (which was wealthy and noble enough) was a kind of a shelf with portrait busts of ancestors in it. Roman were proud to be human in all the possible meanings of this word. They cherished each memory about their predecessors and the glorious history they were participating in. The more developed and wanted form of art between all the people were, indeed, portrait busts.

Of course, it is impossible to talk about clothes, when the main subject is the bust, but fashions in Greek and Roman times were very much alike. However, it would be hardly right to tell that addressing hairstyles. Roman people paid a great deal of attention to their hair, they took care of it, developed wigs and the hairdresser was one of the most prestigious professions that time.

We shall focus on one bust, which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking pieces of art in this world – bust of a Flavian Lady, now kept in Capitoline Museum. This is not a random choice, as it would provide us with a small talk about Flavian dynasty in Rome. This period is very small (between 69 AD and 96 AD) and consists of reigns of only three emperors (Vespasian (69–79), and his two sons Titus (79–81) and Domitian (81–96). However, during this time, many significant events took place: from eruption of Vesuvius and siege of Jerusalem to strengthening the borders with barbarians by expanding the fortifications along the Limes Germanicus. It is very hard to imagine modern Rome without Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum. This was a bright era, full of events, with the sunset of Roman Empire approaching, what made it even more interesting, and, in some cases, extravagant.

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The same could be told about Flavian hairstyles: interesting and, indeed, extravagant, probably, the most flamboyant in all Roman history. Braids and curls in all their kinds were extremely popular. In all time, women wanted to look younger than they are. In Flavian time, they wanted also to look taller: that is what the high arching crown (usually made using fillets of wool and toupees) on the front was for. It reminds me a bit of a combination of modern Babette and buns: as the hair was divided into two parts, first of them combed forwards and built with curls forming that crown and the second braided and coiled in bun.

This hairstyle was not only very extravagant, but also, I shall suppose, pensive and vulnerable, very feminine. The complicated web of braids and curls bewitched the eye of the onlooker, making him lost in the hair as much as in women’s soul. The front hair was headed upwards, to the sky and miracle worlds, full of magic and fairytales, forming a crown, what could be seen as reminder that every woman is a queen in her own way and should be treated so. And the very complex braided bun opened the neck, making woman elegant and vulnerable, forming the urge to protect her.

We are used to think about Roman people as an ideal, after which we shall strive. But let’s take a closer look. Roman were the ones who made gods more human-like and made ordinary human nearer to the gods. They were very aware of individuality of each person, transforming weaknesses into strengths, imperfections into something unique and therefor worth worshipping. Let’s look at the same bust sideways in order to prove that.musei-capitolini-dsc_3637-profile-view

Not having an ideal or a standard, accepting themselves the way they are, being sure they deserve everything they may want in this world – that is what made great not only Roman people, but also an Empire they made. I think, it may be good to learn from Roman to accept and to love yourself, just because you are so unique and special in your own way.

Eager to hear your questions and suggestions,

Victoria Ventonni

Historic of Art and Fashion

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