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Refashioning the Renaissance team at the RSA Toronto

On the 17—19 March 2019, the Refashioning the Renaissance team took part of the the annual Renaissance Society of America conference, this year held in Toronto. The Refashioning the Renaissance project was very fortunate to get four panel sessions accepted into the conference program, focusing on different aspects of lower-class dress in Europe.

Before the conference, however, we had some time to explore the city of Toronto and some of the fantastic collections of The Bata Shoe Museum, together with Professor Pamela H. Smith, who leads the Making and Knowing Project at Columbia University. Senior Curator Elizabeth Semmelhack treated us with the behind-the-scenes tour to the museum’s storage, where we had the chance to study some of the amazing shoes they have in their collection. This included beautiful velvet chopines, elaborate 17th century silk slap-sole shoes, a collection of delicately-embroidered Chinese silk shoes for bound feet, early modern everyday leather shoes from Dutch latrines, and extensive collection of Indigenous North American and circumpolar footwear. Getting a close look at these wonderful objects, and a chance to discuss them together with Elizabeth and Pamela was a definite highlight of our time in Toronto! After our visit to the museum, we sat down with Pamela to record a podcast episode for our upcoming series, where we meet interesting scholars and discuss all aspects of research, experiments, and methods.

Senior Curator Elizabeth Semmelhack with a Spanish-Italian hybrid style chopines with silver lace, tassels, studs and decorated insoles.

Our four panels on Lower-Class Dress, Fashion and Identity in Europe, 1450–1650 took place on the first day of the conference, and included presentations from all the researchers of the team. Focusing on the Italian context, Paula Hohti presented the Refashioning the Renaissance project, and talked about fashion among artisans in Renaissance Italy, and how artisans were communicating how they wanted to be viewed by others. Stefania Montemezzo added to this by introducing an accounting book by Alessandro Vignarchi, and unspecialised trader who travelled in remote areas in Tuscan Apennines. She discussed the peddlers’ role as intermediaries between areas and markets in the spreading of fashion in especially rural areas in Italy. Furthermore, Michele Nicole Robinson examined cross-cultural exchange of dress and accessories seen in artisan inventories in Siena, Florence and Venice, with a particular focus on pearls.

We had a delightful turnout for our panels, and many stayed fro the whole day.

Focusing on England and Denmark, Sophie Pitman considered the urban dress among lower social levels of society, especially focusing on the social codes and attitudes towards fashion, as well as imitation materials. Lastly Anne-Kristine Sindvald Larsen discussed the influences of reformation in the dress of Danish artisans.

We were also were fortunate that so many scholars wanted to contribute to the discussion of dress of ordinary people, and present in our panels. This included scholars such as Joyce de Vries and Amanda Wunder, who focused on the clothing of women seen through Bolognese dowry inventories, and the clothing of the women who were admitted into the poor hospital, Hospital de la Pasión in Madrid, respectively. Francesca Canadé Sautman and Alisa M. Carlson touched on the role of hats and headdresses used by the lower levels of society, by discussing depictions of hats and headwear in the portraits painted by Hans Holbein the Elder in Augsburg, and the depictions of women’s linen head coverings in Europe, with an emphasis on Burgundy-Flanders.

Alisa M. Carlson, Francesca Canadé Sautman, Joyce de Vries, and Amanda Wunder.

After our own panels were successfully behind us, we were able to enjoy the rest of the conference. Some of our team members had been to previous RSA conferences, whereas for some this was the first time in a conference of this scale. The scope of the presentations and scholars from all areas of Renaissance studies made sure that there were at least three interesting panels going on in any given moment, and it was hard to choose where to go. It was a pleasure to meet some many old and new colleagues, engage in interesting discussions and enjoy the papers that shed light to so many various aspects of renaissance life. We look very much forward to next year´s conference!

Visit to Uppsala and Stockholm, 17–18 October 2018

On the 17th and 18th October Paula Hohti, Michele Robinson, Piia Lempiäinen and Anne-Kristine Sindvald Larsen travelled to Sweden to meet our fellow textile researchers and colleagues and share research ideas about historical textile research. It was Dr. Cecilia Aneer, who so kindly had arranged a very exciting two-day program for us. 

We spent the first day at Uppsala University, were we met the researchers from the Textile Studies unit and had a seminar, with each of us presenting our current research. We talked about the aims and goals of our project, and heard presentations covering a range of topics, from tailoring techniques and textile science to cultural meanings of dress. This gave us an insight into the topics that textile researchers in the Scandinavian context are currently discussing. 

After the seminar, we walked through the beautiful city centre of Uppsala, into the Cathedral, which holds a museum collection of historical liturgical textiles. Many of these are made of stunning medieval and early modern patterned silks and velvets. In the museum, we also got a chance to see some unique surviving garments from our period, including the golden gown of Queen Margareta (d. 1412), and the famous ‘Sture costumes’ that used to belong to Svante Sture, a sixteenth-century Swedish Count and statesman, and his two sons Erik and Niels, all murdered in Uppsala Castle in 1567. 

Queen Margareta’s gown.

The Sture Costumes.

We ended the day with a lovely dinner at the Art history Department of Uppsala University, where we had a chance to get to know each better and learn more about each other’s projects.

On the second day we travelled, together with Cecilia Aneer, from Uppsala to Stockholm to visit the Vasa Museum. Here, we were greeted by Fred Hocker, the research leader of the museum’s collections, and the textile research assistants, Anna Silwerulv and Karolina Pallin. 

The Vasa ship.

With this team of experts, we learned about Vasa-ship and its history, and the textiles that were found in the ship when it sank in the harbour of Stockholm in 1628. In addition to examining the textiles and objects that were on display at the museum space, we were fortunate to be able to visit also the storerooms of the museum that included a notable collection of further clothing and textile objects, from shoes and shirts to delicate buttons, pins and jewellery. 

Textile fragments from the ship.

After the guided tour to the impressive collections of the Vasa-museum, we spent the rest of the day with the research team, learning how they document, study, and re-interpret the textile fragments that were found at the 16-century ship in the museum textile documentation project, simply by looking at the objects closely, or by using microscopic analysis. This was really interesting for us, since most of the textiles that were found were from ordinary people. 

One year of PhD research

Since I started my PhD studies one year ago, I have mainly been focusing on collecting relevant sources on artisan dress in Renaissance Denmark in 1550–1650.  

The sources I have gathered range from travel accounts, sumptuary laws to religious and moral writings about dress, printed sources, and images that shows the dress of ordinary people and artisans. However, most of my time during the first year has been spend in the Danish National Archive, collecting inventories of artisans from the town of Elsinore. Going through 15 handwritten protocols and one published, I have collected over 400 artisan inventories that contains lists of dress.Furthermore, these represents artisan masters, journeymen, artisan wives and widowers and their children.

In general, the records give information on the types and styles of dress, colours, accessories and sometimes the condition of clothing.  Some of the inventories also give examples on people from the artisanal group who kept fabrics for having clothes made. In 1592, when the Blacksmith Peder’s estate was drawn up, the valuers found wool worth of 1 mk, which was supposed to be made into a kirtle. Furthermore, his estate contained a red woman’s skirt made out of say, an old leather kirtle with five pairs of silver hooks together with a leather jacket.[1]

The inventory from Peder Blacksmith from 1592

 

 

 

 

I have also found evidence on how dress items were circulated within the family, when they were for example given as heirlooms. In 1644, when Hans Petersen Brewer´s wife had passed away, his daughter, who at that point was only one-and-a-half-year-old, inherited a pearl ribbon, with small pearls from her mother. [2]

These few examples are only a fraction of the information that the inventories reveal.From January onwards I will be focusing on structuring the information from sources, and this will hopefully uncover lots of exiting things about the clothing culture among artisans in in Early Modern Denmark.


[1]Helsingør Byfoged, Skifteprotokol: 1644-1648, p 190-191

[2]Helsingør Byfoged, Skifteprotokol: 1583-1592, p 292-293