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Exhibitions | Past

Illuminating Fashion: Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands
May 20 through September 4, 2011

Delilah Shearing Samson's Hair (detail), by the workshop of the Boucicaut Master. Bible historiale; France, Paris, ca. 1415–20. Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.394, f. 112 (detail). From section 3: "Luxury in a Time of Madness, 1390–1420."

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This exhibition will explore the evolution of fashionable clothing in Northern Europe—from the fashion revolution of the early fourteenth century to the dawn of the Renaissance. Drawn from the Morgan's collections, over fifty illuminated medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and early printed books are featured.

The nearly 200 years just prior to the Renaissance in Northern Europe constituted a fertile era for fashion, a period in which clothing styles changed rapidly, often from one decade to the next. The exhibition examines the role of social customs, cultural influences, and politics—such as the Hundred Years' War, the occupation of Paris by the English, and the arrival of the Italian Renaissance—in shaping fashion.

The exhibition also demonstrates the richness of symbolism in medieval art and how artists used clothing and costume as codes to help viewers interpret an image. In these works of art, what people wear is a clue to their identities and moral characters.

To dramatize these fashions, four recreated ensembles replicating clothing depicted in the exhibition will be on view. The garments were made using period hand-sewing techniques and authentic materials—including silk velvet, gold brocade, linen, straw, and ermine.

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.

Related Programs:

Family Program
The Morgan's Spring Family Fair
Saturday, May 21, 2-5 p.m.

Friday, June 10, 7 p.m.

From the Set to the Runway
Wednesday, June 15, 6:30 p.m.

Gallery Talk
Illuminating Fashion: Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands
Friday, June 24, 7 p.m.

Friday, July 8, 7 p.m.

The Leopard (Il Gattopardo)
Friday, July 22, 7 p.m.

Docent Tours
Guided tours of the exhibition Illuminating Fashion: Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands are offered Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 2 p.m. beginning June 15. For more information, please call (212) 685-0008, ext. 561.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.