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.
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. 
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.
Helsingør Byfoged, Skifteprotokol: 1644-1648, p 190-191
Helsingør Byfoged, Skifteprotokol: 1583-1592, p 292-293
On the 9–20 June I attended the summer school Museum Objects as Evidence: Approaches to the Material World in Amsterdam. The summer school was arranged by the Rijksmuseum, University of Amsterdam and the Bard Graduate Center.
My initial motivation for applying the program was to become more familiar with the methods in analyzing historic objects, and get inspiration on how to include and work with cultural heritage objects in my own PhD dissertation. Next year I am going to look more into the archaeological and material evidence of the dress of the lower levels of Denmark. I felt that I needed tools to approach this topic as a historian, since we are generally not used to work with objects in the material sense.
During the two weeks I got strong insight on how to use cultural heritage objects as sources of information. Some of the overall topics that were considered were damage or decay, object as evidence, reading the object, issues of authenticity,meaning through display, reimagining the object, the biography of objects, interdisciplinary research, and how we think of objects in the future.
Every day we were presented with a new topic and specialists showing us their work with groups of objects from the Rijksmuseum collections, ranging from Delft pottery to fine art paintings, and photography to colonial artefacts, metal wares and textiles.
Some of the sessions I found particular interesting, such as a session about metal objects and metal thread. Here we were presented to some of the treasures from a Dutch shipwreck, including items such as a powder box and a toiletry set containing many items, for example a mirror covered in velvet, and metal threads.
Some of the metal items from the shipwreck. The mirror from the toiletry set can be seen in the background. Photo credit: Anne-Kristine Sindvald Larsen.
In another session that I was very intrigued by, we were presented a highly decorative table ornament, which was decorated with small life casts of small fauna and flora. In effort to understand how the object was made, and to comprehend the highly complicated processes that artisans were able to perform almost 500 years ago, conservators had used contemporary recipe books to help them gain knowledge of the process of making life casts.
Details of life casts of snakes and lizards. Photo credit: Riijksmuseum.
I was also very lucky to try out some technical examination methods on a piece of Renaissance jewelry. By using different technical approaches, we were able to determine the color pigments in the enamel, the quality of gemstones and pearls, and possible alterations and repairs. This made us understand the history of the object and what it had gone through in detail, and also led to quite a surprise. Turned out that the piece of jewelry that at first seemed to be an authentic renaissance object, had a frame added to it in a later period. This shows how important it is to take a deep and critical look into the history of the object, and interpret all the traces the object has to reveal about itself.
A Renaissance pendant is being examined. Photo credit: Thijs Gerbrandy.
The worksheet from the piece that were examined at the workshop.
Even more interesting, we also had a session on textiles, where 17-century bridal gloves were laid out for examination and where we were able to really see the cut and construction of the gloves, and get a closeup of the elaborate decoration, materials, and stitching.
A pair of bridal gloves that we were lucky to get a closer look at. Photo credit: Rijjksmuseum.
Every afternoon the day ended with a discussion where two students were in charge of presenting the main points of the day and their thoughts about the topic in general and in relation to their own project. This led to some very interesting discussion and inspiring thoughts.
What I also learned during these two weeks, is how important interdisciplinary views and approaches are when working with objects. Besides the strong academic focus during the summer school, I got a chance to network and meet other researchers and museum professionals all interested in working and engaging with material culture in different ways.
Group photograph in the Rijksmuseum garden. Photocredit: Thijs Gerbrandy.
Before attending the summer school, one thing that I was especially interested in was to get an idea of how to cope with anonymous objects without any context or known provenance, since this is mostly the case with the archeological remains that are left of ordinary people’s dress in Denmark.
After these two weeks I feel more confident in working and incorporating objects in my own work, I have a stronger sense of what questions are relevant to ask, and know that even simple results can lead to a greater understanding of the objects and thereby the society it was made in. I also know more about the possibilities in terms of methods and approaches, and more importantly I have gotten a sense of how objects can transform our understanding of the past, but also how our understanding of objects keeps changing though time.
I look forward to using this knowledge in practice in the future.
In the process of gathering source material for my PhD research I came across a beautiful and decorative glass window in the shoe makers guild house in Odense, dating from 1583. Jens Pedersen had commissioned and donated the stained-glass window, picturing himself with his wife and two other shoemakers, probably a journeyman and an apprentice.
I was immediately caught by the details in the illustrations, and how the stained glass gives insight into the workshop of a shoemaker. Then I became intrigued by the variety of fashions and styles of garments that Jens Pedersen and his wife are wearing. They are each portrayed with three different outfits, showing off many kinds of decorative and colourful fashions and styles. The glass window shows different styles of hats and caps, and the construction of the clothes is also quite clear.
A work scene from Jens Pedersen’s workshop is depicted in the middle of the frame. He as the master artisan, is sitting at a table wearing a black doublet and hose with some kind of linings, together with black stockings. On his head, he is wearing a black hat. The two working men are wearing white, probably linen shirts, black hoses and yellow stockings. They are all wearing ruffs around their necks. The workshop scene shows how the master artisan is cutting leather, and the journeyman and apprentice are sewing leather shoes together. The depiction not only gives insight into the working environment of the artisans, but also reveals a social hierarchy through the clothes worn by the master artisan and his workers. Were these the actual clothes shoemakers wore, when they were working in the workshop? And does this paint a realistic picture of an early modern artisan workshop?
Jens Pedersen must have had an agenda and an interest in showing himself off in the best possible way, and he is clearly aware that fashion can be a tool for promoting his own role as a prominent master shoemaker and burgher in the city of Odense. Especially the depictions outside the workshop signal honour and respect, and he is clearly using fashion as a tool for making himself stand out, and to shape his identity as a prominent and important burgher. His way of establishing himself as an important burgher can also be seen in the way he is using symbols, his wife with a wine jug and himself with a spear symbolling his participation in the city defence work.
His donation to the guild house shows that he proudly associates himself with the tradition of shoe making and of the guild. But at the same time, he distances himself from the coarser work of making shoes through his dress. Perhaps he also thought that the public placing of the window in the guild house could help shape an understanding of shoemakers as being fashionable, and in this way getting more patronage and additional commissions. No matter what, this is an excellent example of artisan self-fashioning, and I look forward seeing if there are similar examples out there.
Andersen, Vivi Lena: Between Cobbles, Bunion, Shoelast and Fashion. Shoes from 1300-1800 from Archaeological Excavations in Copenhagen, phd-dissertation submitted for University of Copenhagen, 2016.
Troels-Lund, Troels: Dagligt Liv i Norden: i det Sekstende Aarhundrede. vol 2. Gyldendalske Boghandel: Copenhagen, 1914.