Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Menswear of the Lombards

Paul the Deacon, from a period MS  Artist unknown
 MS from Laurentian Library, Plut.65.35, fol 34r
(Wikimedia Commons)
As I previously posted, I recently learned of, and obtained, an ePub copy of the following book:
Gordino, Yuri. Menswear of the Lombards. Reflections in the light of archeology, iconography and written sources. (Bookstone, Dec. 25, 2016).
The Lombards were a Germanic people who conquered and ruled substantial portions of Italy between the mid-sixth and late eighth centuries CE.

My only regret is that I do not have a printed, paper copy of this book instead of an electronic copy. The book is lavishly illustrated, mostly with photographs of reproduction fabric, weapons, accessories, and clothing from the Lombard culture between roughly 550 CE and 770 CE that are based upon the research in the book.  Many of the illustrations show reproductions in lovely, primary colors that look as though they were made with period-available dyes. Despite the book's title, some of the photographs show women in period Lombard clothing, as well as men.  It would be wonderful to see those images as color photographs printed on good paper. 

The book is so beautifully illustrated that it is difficult to focus on the text.  It would be wrong to consider either text or illustrations in isolation, however, because examination of period art forms a critical element of Mr. Gordino's conclusions.  According to Mr. Gordino, information about Lombard clothing has to be derived from multiple sources, including "archaeological data, written sources and iconographic evidence" since surviving items of clothing from the region are nonexistent and only small textile scraps have been recovered from archaeological sites.  Consequently, a number of sketches based upon the most important pieces of period art appear in the book as illustrations, highlighted to demonstrate information about particular garment types. The text also discusses clothing information from Paul the Deacon's history of the Lombards, which is a major source of information about the Lombards in general (see the image in the photograph above).  In addition, the author has reviewed the available evidence in light of what is known of other Germanic people's clothing during the period of the Lombards' rule, though little explicit discussion appears on this point.

For those who are familiar with the known information about contemporary Germanic races associated with other parts of Europe, the book's conclusions will not be surprising.  They include the following:
  • Lombard men typically wore undershirts and drawers made from linen.  The drawers were made with a drawstring with legs extending to just above the knee, like the underbreeches that appear in the art of the later Middle Ages in northern Europe.
  • The most commonly found weaves are tabby, herringbone twill, diamond twill, and repp. Higher status men tended to wear the diamond and herringbone twill weaves, which were dyed in bright colors.
  • There is some evidence for trousers as outerwear, decorated with a broad ornamental band at the hem.
  • There is also evidence that other men wore leg wrappings, as did the Anglo-Saxons and various northern European peoples.
  • Outer tunics were long-sleeved and A-shaped.  They came to about the knee and were decorated with broad bands of contrasting cloth, either in a straight line from shoulder to shoulder (including the neck area) or with a broad band from shoulder to shoulder and a perpendicular band starting from the neck and running down the middle of the torso to about the waist level.  
  • The outfit was completed with a short (no longer than to the hem of the tunic) cloak, fastened with a brooch on the right shoulder, with the opening exposing the right side of the body.  
  • There is evidence for two different types of hat:  a pillbox style, and a felted hat shaped like an inverted modern flowerpot with a small brim.  
  • There is also evidence that low, slipper-like shoes were worn by Lombard men.
The book concludes with an essay on the type of sword belt of which evidence is most often found in Lombard graves.  

Menswear of the Lombards has a few drawbacks.  It is short, especially given the breadth of subject matter covered. Possibly in consequence, long descriptions of the evidence or of the analysis leading to the author's conclusions do not appear.  In addition, the book is written in English, which judging from the grammatical constructions used does not appear to be the author's primary language.  Thus, it's important to read the text slowly at first, making frequent reference to the illustrations based upon the period art evidence in order to absorb the author's meaning.  There is a significant bibliography, but note that many of the sources listed are written in Italian.

In conclusion, Menswear of the Lombards is well-worth its modest EPub price for costumers and other amateur scholars interested in the region and period, though it is far from the final word about Lombard costume.

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