Luxury in a Time of Madness

Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun

Romance of the Rose, in French

France, Paris(?)
ca. 1405
285 x 210 mm

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1900

MS M.245, fols. 22v–23r
Item description: 

The Lover Encounters Danger and Reason
The Lover, protagonist of the Roman de la rose, is always fashionably dressed. In these miniatures he encounters personifications of Danger (an old man with a club) and Reason (a crowned woman). In both scenes he wears the characteristic garment of this period, the houpeland. Both the green and purple houpelands are calf length and feature large poke sleeves. The floppy dagged sleeves of the pourpoint he wears beneath the houpeland are visible at his wrists. In both miniatures the Lover wears chaussembles and a blue chaperon with its cape and cornet tied up into the shape of a fish.

Exhibition section: 

Luxury in a Time of Madness

In 1392 King Charles VI suffered the first of forty-four bouts of madness that would cripple his reign. During a lull in the Hundred Years' War, strife between France and Burgundy erupted into civil war. This domestic crisis was sparked by the 1407 assassination of Charles's brother by Duke John of Burgundy. In 1419 the duke, in turn, was murdered by supporters of the crown. During these tumultuous times, fashion reached unbelievable heights of luxury.

Men's and women's fashions were dominated by a new garment, the houpeland. Men's houpelands featured enormous sleeves and a skirt ranging from full length to crotch level. The pourpoint remained popular, albeit often finely embroidered and equipped with large sleeves. Accessories included fancy baldricks (sashes) and belts—both sometimes hung with bells. Tall bonnets or chaperons, often tied into imaginative shapes, completed the look.

Women's houpelands were always full length, with bombard or straight sleeves. The simpler cote hardy, with its voluminous skirt and tight upper body, continued to be worn. Women began to wear their hair in temples, a double-horned coif surmounted by veils or a tubular burlet.