The Camicia In Venetian Portraits

(Click on image to enlarge, but be warned: some of these images are quite large to enable the detail to be visible)


1515-18, Palma Vecchio: La Violante

Neckline: This one intrigues me, because, while I can see tiny pleating, I can't see any stitching keeping the pleats in place, and the frill seems to be all one piece with the camicia. It is possible that two or more rows of tiny gathering stitches were used to pull the gathers into place and then stitched down from behind - back smocking if you will - to create a neckline of the right size. The edge is embroidered in gold, and the front decorated with three tiny gold bows. Sleeves: What little I can see a the wrist looks like it has been given a rolled hem. Sleeves are still very large during this time, so we can presume the camicia sleeves matched.

1520s-30s, Palma Vecchio: Courtesan

Neckline: At first look I thought this might be a simple strip of fabric, folded over and sewn down over the gathered fabric, but on closer inspection I think I see tiny stitches similar to those made when making a rolled hem...they can be seen (or decide) on the band just near her left nipple area. The opening is closed by a thin cord which goes through a hole on both edges, allowing the opening to be adjusted. Sleeves: Loose sleeves with a tiny rolled hem, which is most easily seen on the edge directly below the left nipple.

1520s-30s, Vincenzo Catena: Guiditta (Judith)

This camicia closely mimics the shape of some outer garments of this time. Neckline: Looks like small knife pleats all the way around, possibly sewn down by simple back stitching. Sleeves: These are comprised of very full upper sleeve section pleated into the close fitting lower arm section - may be just a construct of the artist's imagination, or may be something that was worn specifically to go under dresses with identical sleeve shape during this time.

1520s, Palma Vecchio: Lady With A Lute

Neckline: As with many of the camicie that I have found, this neckline gives the impression of a neckline that is first gathered, then knife pleated and stitched down. Although it is difficult to determine whether the stitching is hidden by a narrow fabric band or ribbon, or whether it is the stitching itself that creates the impression of a ribbon. Sleeves: Very, very wide and full sleeves to go under these dresses which had very full sleeves. I can't determine what method was used to finish the edges.

1520s-30s, Palma Vecchio: Portrait of a Woman

Neckline: This one has a small and tightly knife pleated frill - whether this is part of, or separate to, the camicia is not clear, but it looks to me as if there is too much fabric under the decorative 'band' to create such a small frill above. Also the thick edge of the frill indicates that it is a strip of fabric folded over and then pleated. The band looks to be sewn down first, then embellished by large cross stitches in white. Sleeves: Again, very large sleeves, and on the edge visible just under her right wrist there looks to be a rolled hem edging.

1520, Palma Vecchio: Flora

Neckline: Another case of seemingly too much fabric to create such a small frill. I think the edge of the camicia was gathered tightly to the right size, and then closely stitched to a pleated frill - you can just see where the camicia overlaps the frill in the shadowed area near her hand. Again two edges of the front opening are held together - this time with a length of contrasting ribbon, a very pretty effect. Sleeves: All I can tell for sure is they are loose sleeves - there is not enough visible of the cut edge to work out the finishing method.

1520s-30s, Palma Vecchio: Woman in Blue

Neckline: This camicia looks to be very finely knife pleated, or even gathered, and the frill above looks just as finely pleated. My guess here is that it was a very full camicia, whose very wide neckline was pleated/gathered, over which a strip of matching fabric was laid and sewn down. The frill edge is fine, almost feathery - a simple rolled hem is most likely.

1520s-30s, Bartolomeo Veneto: Portrait of a Venetian Lady

Neckline: An interesting and pretty treatment. Without a better image it is difficult to tell how this was constructed, but my guess is that panels of linen, narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, were sewn together from hem to four inches or so from the top to create three openings on the front. Black ties are held in place by appliqued (probably embroidered) stylised tulip motifs, their ends encased in aiglets. From the picture is seems likely that only those three front ties are functional, the rest merely decorative. Sleeves: impossible to tell, of course, whether they are loose or cuffed/banded sleeve ends, but note the use of embroidery - possibly to mask the seam lines. They also look narrower/less full than those seen previously.

1560s, Giovanni Antonio Fasolo: Fresco: Detail from "The Dance"

Neckline: Of course the only thing it is possible to tell from this fresco is that the neckline frill is black worked - but also note the low back on this gown...views of the back of dresses are few and far between! Sleeves: hard to tell, but judging from other frescos I'd say loose sleeves - and lovely blackwork of course. The sleeves by now are more narrow to fit under the much slimmer sleeves of this time.

1560s, Giovanni Antonio Fasolo: Fresco: Detail from "Games"

Neckline: Two for the price of one! On the left a lovely black worked camicia - both the frill and the front. Curiously you can see diagonal stripes of embroidery on the front of the camicia, not up and down as you would expect to see if it were decorating seams. Perhaps this is a more fitted style of camicia, as opposed to the usual very full, gathered style, or perhaps she is wearing a corset and corset-cover. On the right not much can be seen of the camicia neckline. Sleeves: What wonderful detail on the sleeves of the lady on the right! Fullness, semi-tranparency, and the gathering into a cuff of a definitely thicker fabric - perhaps cut-work linen. Looking closely you can see a blackish line drawn in the folds of the sleeves just above the cuff - perhaps this is something used to hold the folds close together and keep them in place.

1560s-70s, Michiel Parrhasio: Courtesan Playing Lute

Neckline: I can't tell if the camicia body and frill are one piece or not, but the frill looks to be black worked and box-pleated, with matching blackwork decorating the ruffled edging and the band between ruffled edging and camicia body. Sleeves: the sleeves are loose, but end in a matching frill. It is not possible to tell if this is a permanent cuff usually buttoned or tied, being worn undone. The body of this camicia shows black worked seams in the body, as shown in the Vecellio woodcut and the few extant camicie we have seen.

1560s, Giovanni Antonio Fasolo: Fresco: Detail from "The Concerto"

Neckline: Not much to say here except that the edging is black worked. Sleeves: more lovely blackwork on loose sleeves. There is no cuff, although it is difficult to see if there is a ruffled edging or other form of decorative edging.

c1570, Michiel Parrhasio: Courtesan Playing Lute

Neckline: This camicia neckline, what little of it can be seen, shows a lace edging along the front, but from what we can see in other portraits, the lace edging would continue all the way around the neckline. Sleeves: Again we see the large camicia sleeves common to other Venetian portraits, only in this case they look to be decorated with vertical bands of embroidered trim, giving the effect of striped sleeves. I tend to think the artist over-endowed this camicia in the sleeve department - sleeves this large would be difficult to wear under sleeves. Of course the possibility exists that this camicia was designed for those very times when the lady knew she would not be needing her dress sleeves for any reason.

c1570s, Jacopo Robusti - Il Tintoretto: Flora

Neckline: This neckline looks to be both gathered and then knife pleated. The edge is perhaps narrow hemmed - it looks too thick to be a rolled hem and not thick enough to be fabric doubled over. There is a matching fabric strip sewn down - to hide the stitching line - and decorated with large cross stitches. Sleeves: Again, loose sleeves, but no detail on edge finishing.

c1570s-80s, Leandro Bassano: Lucretia

Neckline: It's hard to see from the small picture I have, but the ruffled edging to the neckline on this camicia appears to be edged with very narrow lace - perhaps a strip of linen embellished with a touch of needlelace edging. Sleeves: Easier to see - they are edged with what is either a wider strip of lace or an embroidered band, although as the decorative surface can been seen on both front and back of the strip, I would lean towards the lace as being the more likely choice.

c1580s, Marietta Robusti (La Tintoretta): Young Venetian

Neckline: This neckline shows a quite large neckline that has been finely pleated and to which has been added an exquisite edging of very large needlelace. I asked about this at the embroidery guild: "There is a band of cutwork with punto in aria extending from the top of that band. The fact that the lace is quite stiff suggests that it is needlelace." Sleeves: Of course we can't see the wrist ends of these sleeves, but we can see that they are full, and appear to be restrained by something - perhaps armbands like the one we see in "Courtesan Playing Lute" above.

c1580s, Marietta Robusti (La Tintoretta): Self-Portrait

Neckline: Again we see a very large neckline edged with needlelace, only it is more difficult to see much detail. Sleeves: the sleeves themselves are not visible, but there is something visible at the her left wrist. Since this area of the portrait is scratchy, it is hard to say just what is happening here.

c1580s, Marietta Robusti (La Tintoretta): Venetian Woman

Neckline: Perhaps the best example of the cutwork/punto in aria combination in a truly luscious needlelace edging. Sleeves: still full, the shoulder strap of the dress giving the effect of an armband on her upper arm.

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