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.
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.
Historic of Art and Fashion