Beautiful Clothes

Rafael’s velata(Click twice to enlarge)

La Velata by Rafael Sanzio

Cloth itself was a strangely attractive subject in the old days. Each of the known materials—cotton, velvet, silk, linen, wool—gave its own characteristic folds; and stone and painted versions of these were pleasing to see, both as reproductions of the materials and as charming abstract compositions. Cloth until the Industrial Revolution was a luxury item—a kind of gold. It was chief on the list of a man’s possessions. Many of the old wooden sailing-ships crossing the oceans carried cloth to trade. Fine cloth was out of the reach of the poor. Only a rich man could afford fine clothes; just by themselves they distinguished him as a nobleman. Many of the great portraits of the Renaissance show these nobles proudly dressed in priceless, beautiful, clothes. So the material itself was respected; and seeing it imitated in stone or in paint—recognizing the kind of material it was—gave pleasure.
If on top of that the sculptor gave it some life, it sometimes stole the show from his statue.


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3 Responses to Beautiful Clothes

  1. ivdanu says:

    You are right about that. Not only gave materials their own folds but it was a great mastery to be able to reproduce, to create the ILLUSION, of silk and veils and furs etc. Not only Raphael and Velasquez but also the old Dutch masters (Rembrandt and Frans Hals included) and latter on, Chardin, did wonders in giving the illusion of different materials… As for clothes as sign of richess and nobility, I remember from my historian days that the Kings of France, for instance, were giving decrees limitating the use of some clothing materials to the nobility (because rich bourgeois tended to usurp that privilege). and even long before, the purple color – the real thing, from coqunellas – was reserved for the Imperial use in the Roman Empire. You faced death penalty if transgressing…

  2. 100swallows says:

    You’d have been in trouble if they outlawed orange, Danu.
    That’s interesting about the French royal decrees.

  3. ivdanu says:

    I oould always do a thing illegal in US and they will give me plenty of orange!

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