Death Takes a Knight

Dance of Death, in French

Woodcuts designed by the Master of the Chronique scandaleuse(?)

1486

Purchased, 1975

PML 75062 (ChL 1433T), fols. a4v–a5r
Item description: 

For our purposes, we can ignore the patriarch, the constable, and the archbishop (Death's first three victims) and concentrate on the knight at the far right. His gown has the new look of the 1480s. Open, with wide lapels, it is long, loose, and, lacking the pleats of the previous decades, hides, rather than highlights, the male form. Gone, too, are the flattering padded shoulders. His hat, with its low crown and brim, is also new, as are his shoes. These are the demy pantouffles, round-toed slippers with an open back.

Exhibition section: 

Twilight of the Middle Ages

This was a period of transition in northern Europe—the Middle Ages were not yet over, and the Renaissance had not yet begun. Both King Charles VIII and Louis XII invaded Italy, and these military campaigns exposed France to Italian art, culture, and fashion. At the same time, the Late Gothic style still dominated the arts—and clothing—of northern Europe. Fashions of this period reflect these conflicts.

In the 1480s, the look for men changed abruptly. Padded shoulders and the V-shaped silhouette disappeared. Long loose open gowns came into style and, by the 1490s, these gowns became especially voluminous and bulky. Round-toed shoes replaced the pointy pouleines. New, however, and probably reflecting Italian influence, were the man's outer coat called a sayon, the man's hat called a carmignolle, and doublets with slit sleeves through which the linen of the shirt protruded.

Women's gowns of this period also became fuller, and bombard sleeves were revived. The neck got square. The turret disappeared, while its frontlet remained, now attached to a new small-crowned coif.