The Fashionable in Pursuit of the Wolf

Gaston III Phoebus

Livre de la chasse, in French and Latin

France, Paris
ca. 1406
385 x 287 mm

Illuminated possibly by the Josephus Master and the Bedford Master

MS M.1044, fol. 86r
Item description: 

While their motley crew follows on foot, two well-dressed hunters pursue the hated wolf on horseback. The huntsman in blue wears a fur-lined midcalf houpeland elaborately embroidered in red, white, and gold. Around his high waist is a gold belt from which fall gold chains terminating in bells. Orange provides the accent on his "bag hat" and matching chaussembles. Behind him rides a second hunter in a houpeland partied in green and pink and with especially large bombard sleeves. He wears an elaborate gold baldrick diagonally across his back. The rolled tube of cloth on his head is a burlet.

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.