King François I Sports the New Look

Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun

Romance of the Rose, in French

Illuminated by the Master of Girard Acarie

France, Rouen
ca. 1525
262 x 186 mm

Gift of Beatrice Bishop Berle in memory of her father, Cortlandt Field Bishop, 1972

MS M.948, fols. 3v–4r
Item description: 

The 107 miniatures in this Roman de la rose owned by King François I comprise a veritable French Renaissance edition of Vogue. At the center of the frontispiece François receives the Roman from the scribe. He and his court are all dressed in the new Italianate style. Doublets, in rich fabrics, are often slashed on the chest and arms. The calf-length gowns have wide collars but short, puffy sleeves. Shoes are square-toed. Hats, low and wide, are worn at a jaunty angle and with slanting feathers. Indicative of his lower status, the scribe's gown, with its hanging slit sleeves, is a tad out of date.

Exhibition section: 

Dawn of the Renaissance

After the coronation of François I in 1515, a fundamental change came about in French art and culture. The king, known even during his lifetime as "father of the arts," was a connoisseur who imported major Italian artists (Leonardo da Vinci among the first) and artworks to France on a grand scale. Italian fashions, which began to appear during the reign of his predecessor, Louis XII, flowered under François.

For men, the long bulky gowns of the previous period disappeared, replaced by short ones with wide shoulders. Worn open and with short sleeves, the new gown showed off the slashed front and sleeves of Italianate doublets that offered sexy glimpses of the man's linen shirts. Low-brimmed hats, worn at jaunty angles, were decorated with slanted ostrich feathers. Shoes were square-toed, their uppers sometimes slashed.

Women, too, adopted Italian styles. Their gowns, featuring low, square necks, provided glimpses of their linen smocks. Sleeves also displayed the smock: these were now often worn loosely tied to the bodice or split into two parts and slit along the underside.