4. Brides at Ascension Time, or the Sensa, in Venice

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Forthcoming in Cesare Vecellio's "Clothing, Ancient and Modern, of Various Parts of the World", translated by Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F. Rosenthal, forthcoming from Thames and Hudson, London, in Autumn 2008. Copyright Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F. Rosenthal
Reproduction prohibited without permission of the authors and the publisher.

4. Brides at Ascension Time, or the Sensa[1], in Venice

If ever the brides of Venice make an effort to look beautiful and to appear richly dressed, those who happen to marry during the Sensa do so most of all, during the fifteen days that the holiday lasts and the greatest influx of people from various nations occurs. At this time they set about inventing and adorning themselves with the greatest luxury and elegance they can, because they’ll be seen not only by their fellow citizens but also by the many foreigners of all ages and sexes who come from nearby towns and also from far away to see this splendid display of merchandise. During these days, they show off the richness of their largest pearls and other most precious jewels, with which they ornament their ears, hair, necks and breasts; shining with gold and gems even on their baveri, dressed in the richest and most fashionable ornaments available to them, almost a wonder to themselves, to others who observe them they are a portrait of the greatest loveliness and delight that nature and art can offer to the eyes. So adorned, they stroll through the Sensa, wafting the scent of lovely perfumes through the air as much as they reveal their opulent beauty to the sight. They wear overgowns of white satin but let their bodices and sleeves show through, with all their borders and edges enriched with gold; and they wear gold belts interwoven and studded throughout their entire length with jewels. On their sleeves, instead of bracciali, they wear ruffles of a charming and intricate design, trimmed with many golden buttons, which they also use to attach the sleeves to their shoulders. The rest of their overgarment from the bodice down is made of light black silk, either with a pattern woven into it or in a plain weave, and fitted with a train, as we see in the print. In their hands they carry a fan made of cloth of gold and silk, beautifully designed, with a silver handle. [The fan shown in this print is called a “weathercock fan”.] And from their hair hangs a black veil of very beautiful transparent silk, bordered with charmingly made lace. These veils, falling from their shoulders and gradually becoming wider, almost reaching the ground, bell out around them, covering them very gracefully.

[1] The Sensa was a two-week holiday and fair, held in Venice from Ash Wednesday to Easter, celebrating Christ’s ascent into heaven.


© Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F Rosenthal.


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