Saturday, 4 June 2011

Some Music Sources in the University of Sydney Conservatorium

This is a summary of sources that myself and Tristram d'Avignon found on a library raid, probably in about the reign of King Theodric and Queen Engelin. The raid was on the Conservatorium of Music of the University of Sydney, which is not with the rest of the university, but is rather near to the Opera House and the NSW Parliament.

We have listed the book, together with it's reference number at that library, which should enable these works to be either found on the shelves, or for an inter-library loan.

I apologise for the brief and fragmentary nature of these notes, but they are the notes I have, and it is either write them up as they are, or see them lie silent and dumb to be eventually fed to the gnawing of musical mice.

Di Lasso 'Il Primo Libro de Mottetti' (Antwerp 1556) B13 LAS 12

Part book of Motets for 5 or 6 voices. Reprint, uses period notation.

Susato 'Vingt et six Chansons (1543) B20 Cor 1

Four part book of chansons. Period notation. Reprint.

Roche (ed) 'The Penguin Book of Italian Madrigals for four voices'. B7 Pen 2

Italian madrigals in modern notation

Cuyler 'The Emperor Maximilian I and Music' 780.9 43/2

Part II is music composed by the late 15th/early 16thC Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian's composers, Heinrich Isaac, Adam Rener and so on. Has some stuff about patronage of musicians etc.

Pietro Aaron 'Lucidario in Musica' (1545 Venice) Reference mislaid

Reprint of 1545 Venice edition. In Italian. 16thC music theory

Winn 'A bibliography of contemporary source works for the social history of English Music 1543-1728' 016.780942 2.1

I've noted a cryptic "see Mulcaster 1581 p126"

Hughes "Medieval Music : The Sixth Liberal Art" 016.780902 2B

This book is all bibliography and footnotes, with references by topic. This is not the Platonically perfect book on medieval music, but it is the footnotes to that imagined perfect text. This is a guide and jumping off point for very deep research.

Tacconi "Cathedral and Civic Ritual in Late Medieval and Renaissence Florence" 260.0200945 1

If you're a Florence geek, you'll love this book. P113 has the 'Paths of the Processions on Rogation days" ... remember, people, turn left once you cross the Arno to get to the Porta romana.

Urquardt 'Canon, Partial signatures and "musica ficta" in works by Josquin DesPrez and his contemporaries' 780.148 10

Contains left side/right side period text and translation from works like Ramos's Musica Practica (Bologna 1482) around p131. This is a work to mine from !

Oettenger 'Music as Propaganda in the German Reformation' 264.230943

Lots and lots of German propaganda songs from the Reformation. p95 has melodies. P193 has a woodcut with a four part melody and words.

Caldwell 'Polyphony in Portugal c 1530-c1620 : Sources from the Monastry of Santa Cruz, Coinbra' 016.7809469 1

No notes recorded

Wulstan 'Tudor Music' 780.942 11

No notes recorded

Weaver "A descriptive bibliographical catalog of the Music printed by Hubert Waelrant and Jan de Laet' Reference not recorded

Hubert and Jan were printers in Antwerp between 1524 and 1566

Another day, another library

Finding myself freed from the cares of this world for an afternoon, rather than concern myself with the exchanges, the markets and the making of money, I used the time profitably, as a servant of the muses should, by immersing myself in a library.

The particular library was the science and technology library of the University of Sydney, as I wished to study a little of the history of mathematics, of architecture and that arte that supports the building of tools for architecture and such that later was called engineering.

I record here my findings, so others may trace the paths I stepped and find either wisdom or diversion, according to their nature.

Barsi 'Leon Battista Alberti' (Electra/Rizzoli 1989) SciTech 720.92 A331 X2
Prager+ Scaglia 'Brunelleschi : Studies of his technology and inventions' (MIT Press 1970) SciTech 720.945 B894 X1

Alberti and Brunelleschi were two of those Italian practical scholars, who built buildings, sculpted statues, painted paintings, and cursed at, feuded with and, in some cases, tried to stab people. In these days, Leonardo da Vinci is the only one we talk of today, but he was hardly the only man who could make you a fine statue, a painting, a cannon, a fortress or a cathedral.

Vasari, whose Lives of the Artists is a book any gentleman or lady of the court who wishes to appear knowledgeable should know of, said much of each of these men, and if you would know them I would merely enquire of that talking bronze head of Albertus Magnus that tells of all the knowledge of this world, that was in latter days resummoned by Brin and Page and called 'Google', with a simple query of 'Vasari Alberti' or 'Vasari Brunelleschi', and you shall find what Vasari wrote of them in his 1586 Lives of the Artists.

These works will provide you with the context and with pictures of both their work, and their diagrams, and with much background as to the messy and political processes as to how public works happened in the Italy of this period.

I would particularily commend the anthology of books and writings concerning architecture in period at the back of Borsi's book, and the satirical and libellous verses in Prager and Scaglia's, which are both in the original Italian and the English translation. For those practically inclined, you could probably build one heck of a Laurels Prize entry by rebuilding one of the machines from the plans reproduced in either book.

Hollingsworth "Patronage in Sixteenth Century Italy" (John Murray, 1996) SciTech 707.9 8
Brentjes 'Patronage of the mathematical sciences in Islamic Societies' ch 4.1 in Robson + Stendall eds "The Oxford Handbook of the History of Mathematics" (OUP 2009) SciTech 510.9 192

Patronage is the process by which some person with power, money or both supports activities they like by using these to favour people lacking either. Sometimes patronage is formal, such as in Lochac when a knight makes a squire, or a laurel makes an apprentice, or in England when John of Gaunt gave the poets Geoffrey Chaucer and Otho de Graunson certain grants. Sometimes this patronage is informal, such as when a noble lord presents a scholar with a one-off gift. Other times, it is intermediated through the market, when a particular patron is a regular buyer of an artists works.

Hollingsworth talks about this process in sixteenth century Italy, with particular attention to artists - who is getting who to do what, and sometimes why, while Brentjes addresses this process with mathematicians in an Islamic world that spans from Morocco and what is now Spain, across to Persia and what is now called the Stans. In both cases the reasons for the patronage, and mechanisms by which it is applied, tell you a great deal about who is who and how things work in those societies. Therefore, if you are interested in either medieval Islamic societies, or period mathematics, or sixteenth century Italian art, or sixteenth century Italian courts, then these books will well reward your study.

Bier 'Numbers, shape and the nature of space : thinking through Islamic art", ch 9.3 in Robson+Stendall eds ibid

This deceptively titled article is, in my opinion, the Rosetta Stone for Islamic mathematics. Its bibliography is deep and detailed, and provides you with a map for a lifetime's worth of study. It talks about geometric patterns in carpets and in architecture, and how it was calulated and what it means. It has quotes of actual mathematical work, in both the original Arabic and in translation, including a chunk by al-Khwarizami, who the Latins called Algebra, on this cool new invention he has - that idea we now call decimal numbers (that chunk is so cool it gets its own article by the way). If you are interested in math, in Islamic art or in Islamic culture, I commend this article to you.

Urton 'Mathematics and Authority : a case study in New World accounting', ch 1.2 in Robson+Stendall eds ibid

Speaking generally, Lochac doesnt do New World, which is good in some ways and a pity in others. One of the keys to understanding the New World is that the Spanish, with very small numbers of men, had to keep the old Aztec and Inca Empires running. I hope scholars will forgive me for this very broad-brush picture, but it is simpler if I say the Inca were illiterate but not innumerate, and they had taxes but no money - they kept records via knotted strings called quipu, and when Pizzaro knocked over the entire sixteen million person Empire with 169 men and 62 horses, the Spanish had no choice but to keep the mechanics of the old Empire running. The Spanish therefore had to integrate the knotted-string quipu system by which labour levies were extracted from villiages with the Spanish system of arabic-number based double-entry accounting, and Urton's article is a study of how this took place. If you are interested in the Inca, or in Spain in the New World, this is an article that is well worth study.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

On Some Persian Poets

One of the constants in history has been that there's this pretty big and
influential block of people who speak Farsi under a single government in Persia.
Sometimes it gets called the Persian Empire, and sometimes it gets called
Transuxania and sometimes it gets called the Islamic Republic of Iran, but
they're always pretty big, and they're always pretty influential and they are
always there.

As well as being important, they've also, in my view, stood tough with anyone
else worth mentioning as far as poets go, and as my dear and beloved friends
know, there's nothing that justifies my position as a friend and agent of the
Republic of Letters as much as introducing a new poet to you, my friends, so get
a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou and listen ...

OK, so you got me. You recognise that line. That'd be Omar Khayyam, so you
already know about him.

This, therefore, is a little something from another Persian poet who well
deserves honour ; it is from Farid ud-Din Attar, and it has been my duty and
honour to do a little inferior work on the translation by Raficq Abdullah.

This poem was called The Hawk ; it is by, as I have said, Faris ud-Din Attar,
who well deserves the name of Poet.

He was a soldier with a soldier's pride,
This hawk, whose home was by his king's side.
He was haughty like his master, all other birds
Thought him a peril, his beak was feared

As much as his talons. With hooded eyes
His place on the royal fist was his prize
He stands sentinel on the king's arm, polite
And trained meticulously to do what is right
And proper with courtly grace. He has no need

To see the Simurgh even in a dream,
his deeds are sufficient for him,
and no journey could replace the royal command,
royal morsel his food no disgrace
To his way of thinking,
he easily satisfies the king.
He flies with cutting grace on sinister wing
Through valleys and upward into the sky,
He has no other wish but so to live and then so die.

The ho'poe says: 'You have no sense with your soldier's pride.
Do you think that supping with kings, doing their will
Is enough to keep you in favour, always at their side?
An earthly king may be just but you must beware still
For a king's justice is whim pretending to be good.
Once there was a king who prized his slave for his beauty.
His body's silver sheen fascinated the prince who would
Dress him in fine clothes so his looks alone were his duty.

The king amused himself by placing on his favourite's head
An apple for a bullseye, the poor silver slave would grow
Yellow with fear because he knew well his blood was red.
His silver hue would be tarnished if the king's bow
Was not true; an injured slave would his life lose
To be discarded because the king would not be amused.'

I would also recommend to you that work which is called The Birds and held his

The next poet I would tell you of is Rumi, or more correctly Mowlana Jalaluddin
Rumi, and he is a difficult chap, because as well as being a poet, he is also a
Sufi ; my difficulty is that not only can he write, he has also experienced the
ecstatic, individual one-on-one communion with God, and then he has then written
about it.

Therefore, I give you Rumi's words of his communion with God, transalted by A.J.
Arberry, and then imperfectly amended by myself.

This is Rumi's Ghazal 1393

I was dead, I became alive;
I was weeping, I became laughing;
the power of love came, and I became everlasting power.

My eye was satisfied, my soul is bold,
I have the heart of a lion, I have become shining Venus.
He said, "You are not mad, you do not live in this house";
I went and became mad, I became bound in shackles.

He said, "You are not drunk; go, for you are not of this party";
I went and became drunk, I became overflowing with joy.
He said, "You are not slain, you are not drenched in joy";
before his life-giving face I became slain and cast down.

He said, "You are a clever little man, drunk with fancy and doubt";
I became a fool, I became straightened, I was stripped of pride.

He said, "You have become a candle, the speaker of this assembly";
I am not of this assembly, I am not a candle, I have become scattered smoke.

He said, "You are shaikh and headman, you are leader and guide";
I am not shaikh, I am not leader, I have become slave to your command.

He said, "You have wing-feathers and wings, I will not give you
wings and pinions";
in desire for his pinions and wings I became wingless and unable to fly.

Now Fortune said to me, "Go not on the way, do not become pained, for out of
grace and generosity I am now coming to you."

Old Love said to me, "Do not move from my breast"; I said, "Yes, I will not, I
am at rest and remain."

You are the fountain of the sun, I am the shadow of the willow;
when You strike my head, I become low and melting.
My heart felt the glow of the soul, my heart opened and split,
my heart wove a new satin, I became enemy of this ragged one.

The form of the soul at dawn swaggered insolently;
I was a slave and an ass-driver, I became king and lord.

Your paper gives thanks for your limitless sweetness,
for it came into my embrace, and I dwelt in it.

My darkling earth gives thanks for thy bent sky and sphere,
for through its gaze and circling I know your light.

The sphere of heaven gives thanks for king and kingdom and angel,
for through his generosity and bounty I have become bright and bountiful.

The knowing of God gives thanks that we have outraced all;
above the seven heavans I have become a shining star.

I was Venus, I became the stars, I became the two hundred-fold sky;
I was the moon, henceforth I have become the waxing moon.

Famous moon, I am yours, look upon me and yourself,
for from the trace of your smile I have become a smiling rosegarden.

Move silently like a chessman, yourself all tongue,
for through the face of the king of the world
I have become happy and blissful.

To end this, I will indeed share with you my friends a little Khayyam, and I
wish my good will and hopes to Edward Fitzgerald, who translated this.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Why Medieval Latin poetry isn't always Medieval Latin poetry

Christendom was a country, and it's language was Latin, and like most countries they wrote some pretty good poetry in their national language.

I was lucky enough on a recent trip to Polit to find a couple of things well worth reading - Fleur Adcock's "Hugh Primas and the Archpoet", a copy of Joseph of Exeter's Trojan War and a copy and a translation of Walter of Chatillon's Alexander.

The first book is some classy, classy medieval poetry by the two best Medieval Latin poets in the business, while Walter of Chatillon and Joseph of Exeter wrote Roman-style Classical Latin epic poetry.

Here's a couple of lines by Hugh Primas - his name roughly translates to 'Hugh the Best' by the way.

Ve michi mantello, quai sum donatus asello,
vili, non bello, quia non homini, sed homello.

Poor me poor cloak, alas, I've been presented to an ass
an ugly low buffooon - not a man at all, but a poltroon.

Note how he's rhyming mantello and asello, then bello and homello,

Heres some more classy, classy Hugh Primas

Auxilio pellis clades inimica puellis
carnem non angit nec avis me sordida tangit

A fur coat's a shield : it keeps girls from being defiled
by carnal attacks, and guards me from being shat on by birds.

Note the way Primas is rhyming each half of the line - pellis/puellis and angit/tangit.

Next, Hugh Primas keeping it classy with some lines about female royalty.

Dels ego: quinque tulit solidos mulier peregrina,
et merito, quia grande tulit pondus resupina.

I only got two shillings ; the foriegn woman got a crown.
Fair enough : she had a heavy load to bear when she lay down.

This time, he only rhymes the end-syllables with peregrina and resupina ... but thats Hugh Primas. Keeping it classy since the 1180s.

This is Archpoet, doing his job of currying favour in the Imperial court by rhyming about Milan being crushed by the Emperor Frederick (and making a chess reference, by the way).

Jussu tanem Cesaris obsidetur locus,
donec ita venditur esca sicut crocus.
In tanta penuria non est ibi iocus,
ludum tandem Cesaris terminavit rocus.

All the same [Milan] was beseiged at Frederick's injunction
till the price of meat became as high as saffron.
Such enourmous poverty isnt any joke ;
Ceaser brought the game to last to checkmate with his rook.

Again, the Archpoet is rhyming each end-line.

Walter of Chatillon's Alexander, on the other hand, writes using the framework of classical Latin poetry, but writes it in the twelth century. It uses the epic mode of Homer and Virgil, that of dactylic hexameters - which is to say each line is of six feet, with each foot balancing long and short sounds so that each foot takes the same length of time to say.

Walter, like Homer and Virgil, doesnt do that rhyming stuff that those Medieval Latin Poets, Hugh Primas and the Archpoet, use. Here is a chunk of it - the start of book three, speaking of battle between Alexander of Macedom and Darius, Emperor of Persia.

Iam fragor armorum, iam strages bellica uincit
Clangorem lituum, subtexunt astra sagittaie,
Missiliumque frequns obnubilat aera nimbus.
Primus in oppositos pretenta cuspide Persas,
Ocius emisso tormenti turbine saxo,
Torquet equum Macedo qua consertissima regum
Auro scuto micant, ubi plurima gemma superbius
Scintillat galeis, qua formidiable uisu
Auriuomonis patulas absorbens faucibus aurus
Igniti Dario prefetur forma draconis.

Now the din of arms and war's fierce slaughter conquered
the blare of trumpets, Arrows veiled the stars, and
javelins in thickened clouds obscured
the upper air. Foremmost against the Persians,
more swiftly than a catapulted stone,
the Macedonian thrust his spear point forward.
He turns his mount where gold flashed from the shields
of kings set side by side, where plenteous gems
shone proudly on helmets, where the shape
of Darius' flaming dragon burned with terror,
and sucked wind into it's golden jaws.

To prove it is dactylic hexameters, here is the same piece, broken up according to my own poor judgement into feet and syllables, with each syllable marked on the line below according to my view as to whether it is short, long by nature, or long by position.

I am fra gor arm or um, i am stra ges bell i ca uin cit
- u u | - - | - u u |-- u u | - u u| -- x

Cla ngo rem lit uum, sub tex unt as tra sa git ta ie,
- u u | - -- |- u u | -- - | - - | -- x

Mis si li um que fre quns ob nu bi lat aer a nim bus.

- u u |-- -- | - u u |- - | - u u | - x |

Pri mus in o ppo si to spre te nta cu spi de Per sas,
- u u |- u u |-- - |-- -- |-- u u | - x

O ci us e mi sso tor men ti tur bi ne sa xo,

- u u |- u u | - - |- - | - - | - x

Tor quet equ um Ma ce do qua con ser tiss im a re gum

- u u | - u u | - - | - u u | - - | - x

Au ro scu to mi cant, u bi plu ri ma gem ma su per bi us

-- u u | - u u | - u u |- u u |-- u u | - x

Sci nti llat ga leis, qua for mi di a ble ui su

-- u u | - - | - - | - - | - - | - x

Au ri uo mo nis pa tu las ab sor bens fau ci bus au rus

-- u u |- u u | - u u | - - | - u u | - x

Ig ni ti Da rio pre fet ur for ma dra co nis

- u u |- -- | - - | - - |-- -- |- x

u = short syllable

- = long by nature (long sound vowel, two vowels pronounced together)

-- = long by position (followed by 2 constanants that arent cr-, pr- or tr-)

x = anceps, or line ending (always long)

| = break of foot

After the example of Walter of Chatillon, Joseph of Exeter wrote his Ylias for the court of Henry II of England, also using Virgil as his model for epic poetry (like many places, England's official epic history had the Britons as descendants of Trojans).

Heres a chunk of his poem called the Ylias, on the Trojan War, describing the War of Hercules against the Trojans.

Bellum Herculis et Troianorum

Puppibus emigrat primas, Thelamone secundo,
Larisse pollentis honos, cui cerula nupsit
Nereis, amlexus non aspernata minores
mortalemque thorum, quo principe gloria spirat
Mirimidonum, quem toto suis obnoxia fatis
Dorixa castra canunt. Danais hic debet Achillem
Aiacem Thelamon, eqale in Pergama fulmen

First out of the ships, closely followed by Telemon,
is Peleus Pride of powerful Larisaa, to whom the sea-goddess,
Thetis the Nereid, married, not despising an inferior marriage, nor a mortal husband. Under his kingship the glory of the Myrmidons flourishes.
It is he all the Greek army praises, although it is predjudicial to his fates. Peleus owes Achilles to the Greeks,
Telamon owes Ajax, to be twin thunderbolts against Troy.

Walter of Chatillon isnt using any sort of rhymes in his work - it's allbased around meter, or rhythm, rather than by linking or cross-linking lines with rhymes.

Hugh Primas and the Archpoet were poets who wrote in Medieval Latin.

Walter of Chatillon and Joseph of Exeter, on the other hand, were Latin poets who wrote in the twelth century.



Hugh Primas and the Archpoet, trans and ed by Fleur Adcock, CUP 1994. ISBN 0521 39456 ... PA 8347.H77 A23 in Chifley ANU

Joseph of Exteter Trojan War I-III, trans and ed by AK Bate, Aris and Phillips 1986. ISBN 0 85668 294 2 ... PA8360.J7 D4213 in Chifley ANU

The Alexandreis of Walter of Chatillon : A twelth-century Epic. A verse translation by David Townsend. Uni Pensyllvania Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8122-3347-6 ... PA 8310.G3 A713 in Chifley ANU

Galteri de Castellione Alexandreis, edited Marvin L Colker. Editrice Antenore, Padova 1978. No ISBN. PA 8310.G3A38 1978 in Chifley ANU

Saturday, 9 April 2011


A new poll has been posted to Cockatrice- visit to add your vote!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Extant Dresses in Pisa: Updates on sewing and construction techniques from the Costume Colloquium 2008, Florence.

Written by La Signora Onorata (THL) Katerina da Brescia On November 6-9th , 2008 the Costume Colloquium: A Tribute to Janet Arnold was held in Florence. This was promoted by Fondazione Romualdo Del Bianco and Associazione Amici della Galleria del Costume. Details can be found at The “Red Pisa Dress” of a Tuscan Lady and the wool/linen dress are housed at the Laboratorio Centro Restauri Tesseli, Pisa where a mini colloquium was held as an adjunct to the main Costume Colloquium in Florence. We were lucky to have both Thessy Schoenholzer Nicholson (Adjunct Professor of Costume Studies and Design, Polimoda, Florence and Moira Brunori (Conservatore di Tessuti e Costume, Pisa) for discussion. Three dresses were presented here; two were from the late 16th century. The third is form the early 17th century with a very dropped and rounded front waistline to the bodice. It is of a bright green cut velvet, as seen in figure 1.

Red Velvet Dress:

Lady in the Court of Pisa. The Red dress of a Lady of Pisan court can be seen in Moda a Firenze and was found on a wooden effigy at San Matteo convent, seen in pictures 2 and 3. It had been said to belong to Eleanora d'Toledo as it is very similar in construction technique and style. Recently it has been suggested that it did not belong to Eleanora but belonged to an unknown Lady of the Court of Pisa (Una Veste da Duchessa- Costume Colloquium session VIII). It has been suggested previously, in Moda a Firenze (p 74), that it could have been donated by Eleanora herself or have belonged to one of Eleanora's 'ladies in waiting'. The same authors state the ‘ladies of waiting’ to have often been dressed in similar fashion, colour and material as Eleanora. They also state that similar dresses, worn by the ‘ladies in waiting’, were made by Eleanora’s tailor Mastro Agostino (Moda a Firenze, p75).

Conservator Thessy Schoenholzer Nicholson suggested that the construction and tailoring techniques of both Eleanora’s burial dress and the red velvet dress are similar. The 'Red dress' is of silk velvet in varying condition. Several alterations had been made before it came to the conservators who had to piece it back together. Some sections had been missing in the skirt and were replaced during conservation. Luckily, the sleeves are present unlike Eleanora's burial dress. This can be seen in Figures 2.

Figure 3 shows the back of the dress. Pattern:

The following pattern, redrawn in Figure 4, is based on the construction of Red dress and is based on the pattern supplied by the conservators in Laboratorio Centro Restauri Tesseli. This is also discussed by Moira Brunori, in her lecture Una veste da Duchessa: l’abito di corte di una Madonna pisana - A Gown of a Duchess: the Court Dress of a Madonna in Pisa. Ms Brunori also proposed the fabric layout seen in Figure 5.

Decoration Trim:

The trim decoration on the Red Pisa dress is in a similar position to that of Eleanora d'Toledo's burial dress. The trim itself is gold 'cord' couched onto red satin with red silk thread and a fringe on both edges as in Figures 6 and 7 .

The hem pattern (bottom) is redrawn in Figure 8. The front imbusto (bodice) trim is two rows of a narrower pattern seen redrawn (top) in Figure 8.

The stitching used to sew the trim onto the bodice can be visible through the lining in figure 9.

This confirms that , at least in this case, the embroidery was done after the dress was constructed.


During the Florence mini-colloquium, Thessy Schoenholzer Nicholson confirmed that there is still debate on whether the fold/ pintuck, around the hem (using 5-6 cm of material in the fold) of the Red Pisa Lady's dress which can also be found on Eleanora's burial gown, is purely decorative or functional. Other sources have suggested it to be for lengthening (for pianelle/ chopines), for hem stiffening (I personally find it does help in practicality to stiffen the hem) or decoration. She confirmed that the trim does not line up without the pintuck in place. A close of the lower skirt can be seen in Figure 10.

There is a clipped edging on the hem of the Red dress which is part of the bias strip hiding the wool felt hem stiffening. This was discussed in Moira Brunori’s lecture Una veste da Duchessa: l’abito di corte di una Madonna Pisana - A Gown of a Duchess: the Court Dress of a Madonna in Pisa and my previous article: Tailoring Techniques of Medici Florence, 16th century. (Cockatrice #33)


The sleeves are narrow and have 4 vertical pieces trim with 14 vertical slashes in between. The slashes are actually cut on the straight grain. The tightness of the weave itself have helped to reduce fraying. The button closure is a simple loop as seen in Figure 11.

The button is of red and gold thread sewn over a base creating a star pattern. Janet Arnold also documents a silk thread 'wrapped' button, over a '7/8 inch diameter' wooden base, in Cosimo d' Medici's outfit (1574) in Patterns of Fashion, pp 55-56.

Wool/Linen Dress of A Lady .

The 'everyday dress' is of a wool/linen weave in a white and green diamond pattern, probably from around 1550 (L'Abito della Granduchessa, p15), can be seen in figure 12.

This dress is incomplete with only the front imbusto and skirt remaining There were no sleeves remaining on this dress to study. Moria Brunori commented, in her lecture at the 2008 Costume Colloquium, that this type of dress is more common for non-noblewomen or worn at home. This is supported by the fact that the dress is much simpler in design, decoration and construction..


Unlike the Red dress and Eleanora's burial gown, the skirt is made from rectangular pieces which are pleated onto the waistline, which is slightly curved and dropped at the front. The bodice has a centre front seam.

This makes the construction much simpler, quicker and easier to make. The shoulder strap seam is not on top of the shoulder but towards the back of the body. The hem did not have the felt 'lining strip' as in the Red dress. Instead, it had only a blue linen strip sewn to the inside of the hem. The following is a diagram of the pattern construction placement.


The dress is woven in a white diamond pattern o n a green background as seen in Fig 14. There is little added decoration left on this dress. There is a lighter 'band' on the existing material, around the hem, suggesting a previous trim that has either been removed or disintegrated. Thessy Schoenholzer Nicholson confirmed this and showed me a very small (1 cm or so) remnant of pale, coffee coloured (discoloured?) lace. Further studies are apparently planned.


A close up of the waistline pleats of the wool/linen dress can be seen in figure 15. These pleats are flat with a central unpleated area and face towards the back on each side. It appears that the skirt top is finished as a separate item and then sewn into the waist of the bodice with a line of stitching visible on the outside of the skirt. However, this could just be a remnant of a later reconstruction and is not consistent with the other dresses or pictorial evidence.

Sewing Techniques.

Stitching and Seam Allowances:

Wool/ Linen Dress:

It is difficult to find information, detailing the type of sewing stitches or seam allowances, of the wool/linen dress. To date, the only publication discussing the construction of this dress, is L'Abito della Granduchessa; Vesti di corte di Madonne nel Palazzo Reale di Pisa. The hem of the wool/linen dress, as seen in Figure 16, appeared to be sewn with angled hemstitch. The hem was not reinforced with wool felt, as seen in the Red dress. The hem ‘lining strip’ is in blue linen (L'Abito della Granduchessa, p 67) which appeared to be sewn along the lower/ joined edge with running stitch. Figure 16 shows the hem of the wool/linen dress with that of the Red Pisa dress, in figure 17, as contrast.

Figure 17 also shows evidence of reconstruction.

Red Pisa Dress & Wool/ Linen Dress:

Luckily, at the Laboratorio Centro Restauri Tesseli, we were able to view the Red dress and the wool/linen dress and further discuss this with Thessy Schoenholzer Nicholson on She advised me of the following:

seams are done in back stitch. The stitch length varies depending on the material used in construction. eg. The stitches on the wool/linen dress are smaller than on the velvet dresses.

both flatfelled and open seams were used. They did not appear to be tacked down with either running or hem stitch. An example can be seen in figure 17

Most seam allowances were approximately 7mm Both L'Abito della Granduchessa; Vesti di corte di Madonne nel Palazzo Reale di Pisa and La Moda a Firenze discuss the Red Pisa dress.

The Red dress is also discussed in detail in Moira Brunori’s lecture Una veste da Duchessa: l’abito di corte di una Madonna Pisana - A Gown of a Duchess: the Court Dress of a Madonna in Pisa.

Eleanora d'Toledo Burial Dress: As part of the Costume Colloquium, we also had access to the Medici clothing in the Pitti Palace Museum where Eleanora d’ Toledo’s burial dress is currently housed. Eleanora's burial dress is only visible in low lighting. It is difficult to ascertain the seam construction.

However, it appeared that the seam allowance could have been under 10mm, from the overlap in some of the partially remaining sections of the skirt. Janet Arnold (Patterns of Fashion, p 104) reports the seam allowances varying from 13-14mm, including the selvedges which vary from 9-11mm). Some seams included the selvedges, some had raw edges. Janet Arnold discusses Eleanora’s burial gown in Patterns of Fashion 3. It is also discussed in La Moda a Firenze, L'Abito della Granduchessa and Moda alla Corte dei Medici, gli albiti restauranti di Cosimo, Eleanora e don Garzia.

Other Extant Medici Clothing:

Patterns of Fashion details other extant Medici clothing, detailing 5mm wide seam allowances on the front neck seams of doublet of Cosimo d'Medici (p55-56).

Jennifer Carlson has compiled a summary of different publications mentioning sewing stitches used on extant garments in Sewing Stitches Used in Medieval Clothing. However, there is no details on the actual seam allowance or stitches for structural seams.

The following stitches are listed from 16th century Florence on Cosimo d'Medici's outfit, Eleanora's burial dress and stays and the outfit of Don Garzia:

- Cartridge pleating (1562), tops of panes on Cosimo Medici's trunkhose (Patterns of Fashion, pp 53-54).

- Cord whip stitched to edge (1562), Edge of Cosimo Medici's trunkhose (Patterns of Fashion pp 53-54).

- Dart tucks (1562), Don Garzia d'Medici's velvet bonnet (Patterns of Fashion, p55)

- Eyelet: overcast stitch (1562), Eleanora d'Toledo gown (Patterns of Fashion, p102) and doublet of Cosimo Medici (Patterns of Fashion p 53-54) and in 1574 in Cosimo d'Medici's breeches waistband (over copper rings).

- Gathering stitch (1562), lining of Cosimo d'Medici's trunkhose (Patterns of Fashion, pp53-54)

- Hem stitch. (1562), turned edge of panes on Cosimo d'Medici's trunkhose). (Patterns of Fashion, pp 53-54) and the dress and stays of Eleanora d'Toledo (both slanted and upright). in Patterns of Fashion, p102. Upright hemstitch was also found on Eleanora d'Toledo's stays. (Patterns of Fashion, p102), in the lining of Cosimo d'Medici's outfit (1574) (Patterns of Fashion 2, pp 55-56),

- oversewing on patching - possibly overcast stitch (1562), on the doublet arm of Cosimo d'Medici (Patterns of Fashion, pp 53-54)

- Stab stitch (1562), on the edge of the centre front of Cosimo d'Medici's doublet (Patterns of Fashion, pp 53-54)

- backstitch is mentioned (1574) in the collar and front of the doublet, to sew down the buttonhole reinforcing strip) of Cosimo d'Medici (Patterns of Fashion 2, pp 55-56)

- buttonhole stitch (1574) with square ends in the doublet of Cosimo d'Medici. (Patterns of Fashion 2, pp 55-56)

- running stitch (1574), holding seam turnings in the collar and front neck seam turnings in Cosimo d' Medici's doublet (Patterns of Fashion 2, pp 55-56)

Threads used:

The conservators confirmed that most of the research on these dresses, so far, has been on the textile, weaving, pattern and reconstruction and has not concentrated on the sewing, stitches or sewing threads. Further funding is required to research and publish more information on the wool/linen and Red Pisa dress. Types of thread used for stitching is listed in Patterns of Fashion 2 (p53-54) as 2-ply silk in Cosimo d' Medici's outfit and on his trews in 1574 (Patterns of Fashion 2, pp 55-56) and on the wooden base buttons in the doublet of the same outfit.

Interlining and Layers:

In Moda a Firenze (p 74, 84), Roberta Orsi-Landini and Bruna Niccoli reported the layers to be as follows:

1. outer layer

2. felted wool

3. stiffened linen

4. lining However, it is not clear whether the wool layer, used for stiffening, was either felted wool or woven woollen material that was fulled or felted.

Further discussion at Laboratorio Centro Restauri Tesseli, with regards to the imbusto (bodice) construction revealed:

- the woollen layer was mostly felted wool but could have also been woven woollen material that was fulled or felted.

- This layer was 3-6mm thick but more commonly 6mm. This layer was usually quilted in varied patterns. Sometimes it was quilted through the linen layer.

- This felted wool can also be seen as stiffening, on the hem treatment, under a layer of bias material that is used to decorate the hem.

This is seen in figure 9. Patterns of Fashion states that the wool felt is 38-44 mm wide. The conservators admitted that they hoped that a book, based on the more recent work at the Laboratorio Centro Restauri Tesseli and detailing all three dresses at Pisa, will be pulished in 2009, as L'Abito della Granduchessa; Vesti di corte di Madonne nel Palazzo Reale di Pisa is out of print and apparently will not be reprinted. This depended on funding available and has not as yet been published.

Photos of the restoration and conservation of Eleanora's burial dress, Cosimo and Don Garzia's clothing are not digitally archived and will be housed at via the Pitti Costume Galleria. These are available online at the Digital Archive/Photographic documentation Conservation of the Medici Burial Clothes and are accessible by all interested parties and not just official institutions and scholars.


Photos: taken at the Textile Colloquium, Florence, 2008 by K. Carlisle (copyright 2008). Drawings by K. Carlisle. If you wish to have a larger version, of the pictures or wish to use them, please contact me.



1. Arnold, Janet . Patterns of Fashion 3, MacMillan, London, 1985. ISBN: 0-333-38284-6

2. L'Abito della Granduchessa; Vesti di corte di Madonne nel Palazzo Reale di Pisa. Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Reale, Pisa

3. Orsi Landini, Roberta & Niccoli, Bruna. La Moda a Firenze 1540-1580: Lo stile de Eleaonora di Toledo e la sua influenza. Pagliai Polistampa, Firenze, 2005. ISBN: 88-8304-867-9.

4. Moda alla Corte dei Medici, gli albiti restauranti di Cosimo, Eleanora e don Garzia, Firenze : Centro Di, 1993. Description: 107 p. : ISBN: 8870382389


1. Archivo Digitale: Digital Archive/Photographic Documentation Conservation of Medici Burial Clothes. Http://

2. Fondazione Romualdo Del Bianco and Associazione Amici della Galleria del Costume. Janet Arnold Textile Colloquium, Florence, 2008

3. Sewing Stitches Used in Medieval Clothing: (Jennifer Carlson)

4. Tailoring Techniques of Medici Florence, 16th century .

5. Una veste da Duchessa: l’abito di corte di una Madonna pisana - A Gown of a Duchess: the Court Dress of a Madonna in Pisa, Moira Brunori (Conservatore di Tessuti e Costume, Pisa) (A Lecture from Janet Arnold Textile Colloquium, Florence 2008)

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Book review

The King's Servants: Men's Dress At The Accession of Henry VIII by Caroline Johnson, Jane Malcolm-Davies (ed) & Ninya Mikhalla (ed)

Brought to you by the team that delivered the highly regarded "The Tudor Tailor" this slim yet pricey volume is worth every cent. If you are interested in early 16th Century men's clothing, this book should be on your must have list. What started as a quick flick through looking for costuming ideas rapidly became an immediate purchase decision.
The book explores the livery issued to the servants of the Royal household during the accession period for Henry VIII, using the detailed accounts of the Great Wardrobe. These are the Royal expense accounts for clothing issued to the King and his servants, listing the details and costs of each warrant issued for clothing.
The authors have divided the book into sections covering the details of the accounts themselves, the specifics of the fabrics, clothing and colours listed, comparison of the specific clothing issued to the various servant ranks, as well as providing pattern details for the various garments, along with photos of their individual reconstructions. The depth and quality of detail contained in the book is astonishing, and surpasses the high standard they set in their previous book.
The survey of the individual clothing items is probably one of the most useful for the details presented. As well as describing the actual materials and yardages generally issued, they reveal how these details provide specific clues to the garments construction, as well as the changes that occur over the survey period. Another fascinating insight is the differing quality of the material used for various ranks of servant, and yet it all provides a uniform livery appearance for the Royal servants.
This book is ideal for someone aiming to recreate men's clothing from this period with a persona in the working or middle class. The garments surveyed will provide a respectable and functional detailed wardrobe, which can also be adjusted to suit many varying weather conditions, since the authors also contrast the warrants issued for summer and winter. The text is also highly accessible, being clear and concise yet wonderfully detailed. All in all, they have produced one of those rare finds that is not only a great resource to the re-enactor, but a joy to read over and over again.
Available from Colonial Lakes Books for $59 plus postage or from the publisher for £17 plus postage.
Review by Adib ibn Jelal