Medieval Textiles in Pisa

When we were in Pisa we had the unexpected fortune of poking into a textiles exhibit in Pisa. While everyone was taking that famous picture of the Torre – you know the one where they pretend to hold it up – we popped into the surrounding crypts with dirt from the Holy Land, art displays, odes to the Maritime Republic’s former glory, and a surprise textile exhibit.

There were two parts to this exhibit that I want to share for all my costuming friends out there. The first part is recreating clothes from the frescoes and murals in Pisa. The second was a display of costumes from the Franco Zeffirelli 1968 Romeo and Juliet. You can argue about the take on Shakespeare, or authenticity, but the costumes are quite sumptuous. To date the most historically accurate R&J I’ve seen out of supposedly “historically accurate” R&Js is a graphic novel that actually depicts Verona in the background to the point where the city is recognizable and the costumes are period for when the tale was set rather than written. But I digress. I think I’ve posted the costumes before, so this will focus on the historic recreations from Pisa’s murals.

The Museo also had a bevy of sketches and saved wall art and downright gorgeous line drawings. I recommend popping in if you go to Pisa. Buy a ticket that lets you into the other areas besides the leaning tower. The Torre is a marvel and fun to gawk over and climb up, but the real deal surrounds the area and fewer tourists go into the buildings surrounding the Piazza.

1. The Musician and the Lady with the Dog

This panel shows the original painted image. The Lady sits on the Left with a Dog on her lap wearing a painted pattern loose fitting garment, while a man with a viol wears one in blue. Both have layers underneath with long fitted sleeves. It’s sort of a loose giornea or overdress/robe, probably over a gamurra, which is like the Italian version of a kirtle. The musician’s under-robe has a loose turtleneck and no laces. The recreations are minimalist in adornment, and this is a good example – the musician’s clearly has trim and the painted pattern on the donna is more frequent in the original, but they are excellently done.

la donna con il cane e il musicista

Front views of the Lady and the Musician

Lady and Musician 2

Back views of the Lady and the Musician. The Musician’s robe has an interesting swallowtail train in the rear.

2.  The mischievous Green Musician

Well, at least I think there’s a mischievous glint in her eye! The artist has put a lot of character into the various people he depicts, and this female musician is no exception:

Tell me she’s not planning a key change on everyone while moving into 7/8 time?

Like the Lady and Musician in blue, this gal has a loose giornea with accented sleeves and side part and a painted pattern. She also has a tight sleeve (or at least half sleeve, like my Venetian gown).

One thing that stands out, already, is the drape and weight of the woolens used in this exhibit.

3. The Ministry of Funny Hats

These astride gentlemen have some sporting hats that they are showing off to their lady. First, notice how bright of color they are. Second, yes, they are very odd hats. (Aren’t a lot of hats just odd?)

Three hats

All those hats just makes the lady blush with modesty!

Who says you can’t wear a sombrero in the Middle Ages! Become Pisan!

The one on the right is a chaperone, I don’t know what the one on the left should be called, but it looks like a crowned duck to me.

4. The Red Scalloped Pleated Dress(es)

There were a couple reproductions of this dress, slightly different and from what I could gather, made by separate students  helping on the project. You can see the variations in opinion, but not skill. The scalloped pleating is quite pretty and ingenious and quite thick on the brightly colored dress.

Love that fanned scalloped pleat!

A close up of the fan scalloped pleat and waistband.

Rear view of the red dresses. Yard of fabric in those for a beautiful drape.

Close up of the lacing and rear pleats.

The sky blue makes a gorgeous contrast to the red of the dresses and lighter, more pink robe or giornea.

The giornea’s sleeves are pocketed and belled and the embroidery is fine and just delicious.

5. Pleated Grey Menswear

Many of the outer robes depicted on both men and women are very similar in style, length, and draping, though the neckline gives this one away as menswear (as did the associated painting, which, I apologize, was too blurry to include). Pay no attention to the obviously feminine dummy underneath! (What, did they run out?)

Though I’m sure it would work perfectly well on a lady too if you got rid of the mens’ collar.

5. Rear of a Drab Dress

Last, a close up of a pretty drab dress. It feels too early to call it a gamurra, but I’ve seen the word applied. It was plain, like several of the dresses, to show what might be work under the more spectacular overdresses, robes, or giornea. They all have a long line of lacing with even longer laces – I got the impression that it could easily be pulled when wearing and would have enough length to slip the dress on overhead without assistance.

This one, unlike other underdresses, had a pleasant wide sleeve. All the gamurre were fitted but not cinched tight like Renaissance gamurre; they were figure flattering.


~ by glasslajora on August 11, 2012.

4 Responses to “Medieval Textiles in Pisa”

  1. it does indeed look like the king of duckies

    • Yes! I can’t think of anything else to call it. If you ever see something like it with a name attached, let me know. I’d love to find an actual name for The Duckie King.

  2. beautiful reconstructions indeed! but, do you have other pictures from the exhibit as well? i can see a beautiful red dress in the last 2 pictures and i’d like to see it better.

    • The dress in the background is from the section of the exhibit showing the 1968 Romeo and Juliet costumes. I had thought that I had posted them previously, somewhere on the blog, but perhaps not. I would be happy to upload the more decent shots I have. (Look! a task for the day approaches!)

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