6. Noblewomen At Public Festivals

Presented here with the knowledge and full permission of the authors and publisher.

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.



6. Noblewomen At Public Festivals

When noblewomen are invited to banquets or spectacles at which some great person will be present, as often happens in Venice, they are allowed, without breaking any law or risking any judgment against them, to deck themselves out and adorn themselves as they please, although outside such occasions, their clothing is controlled by the Signori delle pompe [overseers of the sumptuary laws]. So when Henri III, the King of France, coming from Poland where he was also King, passed through Venice, he was entertained (in addition to other sumptuous and marvellous spectacles) with an immense gathering, in the meeting room of the Great Council, of two hundred of the most beautiful principal noblewomen of the city, all dressed in white, and they appeared in such style and such great loveliness that the king, along with his entire entourage, was stunned and astonished. All of them promenaded two by two in front of his royal majesty, and in a graceful manner, sinking low, they gave him the required curtsey. They all had their heads covered with pearls and other jewels, with which they had also adorned their necks, breasts, shoulders, bodices and sleeves, with lovely richness. All these jewels were set in gold and surrounded by very beautiful needlework. Altogether, they appeared in such splendor that it was estimated that each one of them was wearing the equivalent of 50,000 scudi. And in addition to the dances that they performed gracefully before His Majesty, a sumptuous feast was also held, for which many thousands of scudi were spent. But returning to the topic of their dress, I say and declare that bodices, in that time, were not as long as they are today, and wise, beautiful young women didnít curl their hair into such a high shape but wore it as can be seen in this portrait. Their clothing was similar to the black costume worn by the woman shown here, who wears her hair in the shape of a small crown. And the figure I show you here is one of those richly dressed women who were invited to this great party. Now our modern women wear brocades and cloth of gold and silver, with an immense number of jewels and very sumptuous bodices and sleeves. The hairstyle here is modern, and so are the sleeves, and the bavero, in which jewels are worn; and in their hands they carry very beautiful woven fans, with gold handles.


© Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F Rosenthal.

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