This exhibition explores the evolution of courtly clothing from the
"Fashion Revolution" around 1330
This exhibition is generously underwritten by a gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden and
by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
Major support is provided by The Coby Foundation, Ltd., with additional assistance from
the van Buren family in memory of Dr. Anne H. van Buren, and from the Janine Luke and
Melvin R. Seiden Fund for Exhibitions and Publications.
Tormentors Are Always Well Dressed ca. 1375
It was an unwritten rule for medieval artists that Christ was never
fashionable. The opposite, however, applied to torturers and executioners,
whose foppish obsession with elegant clothing was a reflection of their
depravity. The two tormentors at the left wear the cote hardy with a loose
bodice and a knee-length skirt. At the right, the kneeling man, who
mockingly offers the Savior a reed as a scepter, also wears the cote hardy,
the skirt of which is tucked into his belt. The bearded man, who rams the
Crown of Thorns onto Christ's head, wears the shorter and tighter doublet.
Book of Hours,
in Latin and French
France, probably Verdun
and Paris, ca. 1375
Illuminated by the Master
of the Bible of Jean de Sy
130 x 100 mm
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1902; MS M.90, fols. 48v–49r
The second half of the fourteenth century was a bleak period in French history. The Black Plague, which first struck in 1348, was a recurring horror. As the Hundred Years' War dragged on, France suffered devastating defeats by the English. Following the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, King John II was captured and taken to London as a prisoner. Fashions changed little during this period.
Men's fashion was dominated by the pourpoint: a close-fitting doublet influenced by the military. With a short flaring skirt and a cinched waist, the pourpoint was padded at the chest and shoulders, giving its wearer a distinctive hourglass silhouette. Pouleines, long pointed shoes, and belts—slender, or the thick "Bohemian" girdle—worn low on the hips complimented the look.
The cote hardy—an outer garment for women—while retaining its voluminous skirt, got even tighter at the bodice, bosom, and sleeves. The resulting look paralleled that of men's fashion. Tippets, decorative strips of cloth hanging from the arms, remained popular. Both men and women continued to wear the chaperon (the hood with attached cape and tail).