Se vêtir au Moyen Âge et à la Renaissance

EXHIBITION: Dressing Up and Dressing Down in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Costume in Art.  Se vêtir au Moyen Âge et à la Renaissance, Les Enluminures, Le Louvre des Antiquaires, (2 Place du Palais-Royal, 75001 Paris, tel +331-42601558), 5 May – 25 August 2011. Contact: info@lesenluminures.com

This summer spotlights the theme of Fashion worldwide. As part of its series of 20th year anniversary celebrations, the gallery Les Enluminures plans an exhibition on fashion in its Paris space in the Louvre des Antiquaires. Approximately 35 works of art are featured in Dressing Up and Dressing Down in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Costume in Art, from May 5 to August 25.

The exhibition will include manuscripts, single leaves and cuttings and sculpture. Dressing Up and Dressing Down is coordinated with two museum exhibitions that take place at the same time. One is at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York and is titled Illuminating Fashion. It also opens in May and continues through the summer months and is accompanied by a long-awaited publication by Roger Wieck and Ann van Buren. At the Getty Museum, Fashion in the Middle Ages, is displayed simultaneously from May 31 to August 21. It is accompanied by a Getty Publication by Margaret Scott.

The exhibition is organized around three themes. The first takes the title of the exhibition and shows how in many diverse ways people in the Middle Ages dressed their parts. It was so important to dress according to one’s station in life and occupation that the fifteenth-century proto-feminist writer, Christine de Pizan, complained that she often saw her contemporaries dressing above their social class. Thus, the nobility favored lavish houppelands (gowns) and surcotes (overcoats or tunics), often fur-lined, usually with miniver (white fur used in ceremonial garments) or squirrel. The peasants wore simpler garments.”

The second theme is “Wearing Color”. Color was frequently a code: blue for royalty, green for hope and youth, red and green together signified bold youth, and so forth. Stripes were to be strictly avoided: only prisoners, executioners, those people on the margins of society wore stripes. The middle class often wore more sober colors: witness the neutral-colored garment worn by the head of the tailor’s guild in Bologna, along with the scissors (symbol of the guild) in the margin.

The third theme, “Accessorizing Costume”, throws a spotlight on rings and some pendants. At least in Italy sumptuary laws regulated the wearing of gold jewelry, but plenty of silver and even bronze jewelry was available for the lower estates. Merchants wore their rings on the index finger for ease of sealing with them. The numerous paintings of the period in which wealthy sitters wear as many as 8 to 10 rings on a single hand show just how popular this bejeweled accessory had become.

This exhibition, which is the second in a series of four to celebrate our 20th year anniversary, will give to our audience of gallery-goers—composed mostly of European and Americans—a chance to see many works in which fashion figures. Paris is, after all, ‘the fashion capital of the world!’ Those who can’t come to Paris will visit the exhibition virtually—such is the beauty of the Internet.

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