Saturday, November 22, 2008

'Finding Feminine Inspriration' resuscitated

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I have decided to revive my series on Finding Feminine Inspiration. I hope you all don't mind. 

I felt in need of a little lace and silk and general prettying up.

In this post I will look at April, from Les Tres Rishes Heures du Duc de Berry.

I have a passion for all things mediaeval - castles, cathedrals, gothic architecture, fair maidens, handsome knights in shining armour riding white horses, etc.. I also enjoy studying the clothing worn by women of this period. Some of the trends in men's clothing during the mediaeval period may seem slightly ridiculous to us today - the tights, the exaggerated sleeves and elongated shoes, and - worst of all - codpieces, although the latter did not come into fashion until the late Middle Ages. The extremities in fashion were not limited to men's clothing, however - enormous sleeve cuffs and elongated footwear were fashionable for women, too. Also, some of the women's headgear of the time was quite - bizarre.

However, there is a certain grace and simplicity in many of the outfits worn by mediaeval women. This is exhibited to some extent in the picture I am highlighting today.

This painting is part of the famous Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry - a book of hours, or calendar, created by the Limbourg brothers in the early 15th century. The picture shown here represents the month of April.

If you're wondering what exactly is going on this picture (as I was at first), I'll do my best to explain.

A newly betrothed young couple are exchanging rings while witnesses look on and two maidservants gather flowers from the ground below - though unfortunately these flowers are very difficult to see, though I am told they do exist. Perhaps they are invisible flowers. . .

The betrothed pair were real people - the painting is supposed to represent the pledge of troth between Charles d'Orleans and Bonne of d'Armagnac, granddaughter of the same Duke of Berry who commissioned this book of hours. The castle in the background is the Chateau de Dourdon,which belonged to the Duke of Berry.

It is a beautiful picture - the glowing colours, the impossibly blue sky, the greenness of the grass, the overall aura of springtime  and young love - though I must say, the bride-to-be does not seem to look overly enamoured with her future husband, although he certainly appears to be very pleased with himself and his bride. Perhaps she is only hiding behind a discreet veil of feminine modesty and decorum, as  was proper for mediaeval maidens!

I love the outfits worn by all four women in this painting - the high waists and simple lines of the gowns are quite lovely. One gets the feeling that these garments would have given the wearer a delicious sense of luxury, as well as the comfort of the generous and expansive folds of fabric.

I especially like the gown worn by the young betrothed woman - the combination of blue, gold, and white is exquisite. I am not expert enough to know whether the pattern on her dress has been embroidered on or has simply been woven as a part of the fabric itself - either way, it looks lovely!

Current Mood:  Good.