My regular readers may recall that, back in 2005, I was caught up in designing a lavish, early 16th century Venetian gown for a role in a live-action roleplaying game. Since I knew almost nothing about the costume of that place and period at the time, I was interested in obtaining a copy of this book:
Newton, Stella Mary. The Dress of The Venetians--1495 to 1525 (Pasold Studies in Textile History 7, Scolar Press 1988).
|Durer's Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman|
|Carpaccio's Two Venetian Ladies|
A couple of caveats are in order before I proceed further with this review.
First of all, this may not be the best book for you if you are looking for images of costume in Ms. Newton's target period. There are relatively few photographs in the book. Worse, most of the photographs there are are in black and white, and reproduced at scales that make examination for costume details difficult. On the other hand, the book identifies a number of artworks from the period quite clearly artist and title, so it should be easy to obtain better copies of the images for detailed examination (or perhaps even go to the relevant museums to examine them in person, if one can afford to travel).
|Bellini's Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan|
That being said, what Ms. Newton does explore in her book is fascinating. She observes that there are not many pieces of artwork that both depict costume worn in the 30-year span in which she is interested, and can unambiguously be documented as showing a specifically Venetian fashion. So she has primarily consulted period written sources relating to costume--primarily regulations, and texts discussing regulations--and read them in light of the few paintings that she believes do depict Venetian fashion. I have located images of some of the paintings used as illustrations in the book and added them to illustrate this post.*
|Carpaccio's Arrival of the English Ambassadors|
|Titian's Sacred and Profane Love (detail)|
Overall, despite the modest number of illustrations, I think that Newton's book has a wealth of information for the costume historian interested in the period she covers. I think that anyone interested in the costume of the period should read it, and that anyone seriously interested in the period should study it. A historian specializing in the period would be well-advised to have a copy, even at a three-figure price.