The Terrible Twenties

Hours of William Porter, in Latin

Illuminated by the Fastolf Master

France, Rouen
ca. 1420–25
269 x 188 mm

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1902

MS M.105, fols. 72v–73r
Item description: 

Jilted Suitor in a Murderous Rage
Sir William Porter, part of the English occupying force in France in the 1420s, commissioned this manuscript while in Rouen — hence the inclusion of a prayer to Winifred, a seventh-century Welsh saint venerated in England. When Winifred refused the chieftain Caradoc's proposal of marriage, the enraged young man pursued and decapitated the maiden. (Her miraculous restoration appears in the background.) Caradoc wears a new garment that evolved from the houpeland: a robe (gown). Short, unwaisted, but belted at the hips, the gown presents an unflatteringly bulbous silhouette. Also bulbous are his sleeves, large "bag hat," and gipser (purse).

Exhibition section: 

The Terrible Twenties

Following the assassination of his father in 1419, the new duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, sided with England in one of the direst chapters of the Hundred Years' War. By 1422 northern France and Aquitaine were under English or Burgundian control. Paris was an occupied city. Only in 1429 did the tide begin to turn in France's favor, when Joan of Arc delivered Orléans and Charles VII was crowned king in Rheims Cathedral. Fashion retrenched.

While men and women continued to wear the houpeland, simpler garments for both sexes emerged. Men wore what was called a gown: a short, unwaisted garment unflatteringly belted at the hips. The resulting silhouette was top-heavy and bulbous. Sleeves were baggy, and the "bag hat" got droopier.

Women, while not dressed in the houpeland, might wear their new garment, also called a gown. Structured like the traditional cote hardy with a large skirt, the gown had an open or V neck and columnar or puffed sleeves. Headgear, however, did evolve: temples grew wider, and the veils and burlet worn atop them got taller.