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.
Delilah Dressed for Success ca. 1415–20
Taunted by the Philistines, a swashbuckling Samson slew a thousand of
them with the jawbone of an ass, as depicted in the left miniature. They
got their revenge, bribing Delilah to solve the mystery of his superhuman
strength. She then got Samson drunk and cut off the source of his
power — his hair. Delilah wears a trailing, high-waisted houpeland with
bulbous sleeves and an open V-shaped collar. The horns of her temples
(hennin), stretching wider than her shoulders, are surmounted by a
decorative green burlet from which hangs a short veil. The horizontal
embroidery and knotted sash worn by Samson signify his exoticism.
Guyart des Moulins,
Bible historiale, in French
France, Paris, ca. 1415–20
Illuminated by the workshop
of the Boucicaut Master
450 x 330 mm
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910; MS M.394, fols. 111v–112r
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.