1500 Stitches: diverse arts of Margaret Wolseley

Dressing a Venetian Nobleman in 1500: Referenced Artwork

Intro - Toga - Zupon - Camisa - Mutande - Calce and Zoccoli - Accessories - Artwork - References

Vittore Carpaccio - Gentile & Giovanni Bellini - By Other Venetians - By or Depicting Non-Venetians

I am not an art expert, so rather than write my own summary of the Rennaisance Venetian art school, I recommend a basic overview of the artists, such as the one by Encyclopedia Britannica. For my current study the artists that were most useful to me were those who depicted people who could be clearly identified as Venetians, and who painted in roughly 1490-1510. Newton describes a "new outline for the male torso" depicted in a 1505 sketch,[1] thus I avoided relying heavily on artwork past the turn of the century, as changes in fashion make later works somewhat suspect for my project.

My favorite artist to reference, perhaps because early in my research I found a book[2] with fantastic close-up views of some of his major works, is Vittore Carpaccio. I have studied his sketches, his series of canvases depicting the life of St. Ursula, and my favorite and most perused work of art: his contribution to the cycle about the Miracle of the Relic of the True Cross. Although art historians cannot date most Carpaccio's works with complete certainty, the majority of them were completed between 1490 and 1500, making them ideal for my purposes.

I also frequently consulted works by two Venetian brothers, Gentile and Giovanni Bellini. Gentile was an "official painter of the Venetian Republic [and] a dominant figure in Venetian art for several decades in the latter half of the 15th century, known particularly for his portraits and large narrative paintings in which the city and its inhabitants are depicted in great detail."[3] Gentile traveled extensively, and his images of Byzantine and Islamic fashions have been of great help to me in reconstructing eastern dress (but not in this project!).[4] Giovanni was more innovative and artistically significant than Gentile, probably one of the most significant painters in fifteenth century Venice, and his depth of detail is immediately obvious in works such as the Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan.[5] When Gentile grew ill he requested that Giovanni finish the painting of Sermon of St Mark in Alexandria; it was completed after Gentile's death.[6] Tragically, a large part of these brothers' works have been destroyed, many by the fire that consumed the ducal palace in 1577.

The most amazing images of Venetian streets in late fifteenth century Venice are part of the cycle about the relic of the True Cross commissioned by the Scuola di San Giovanni Evangelista in 1494 or 1495 to decorate the Sala della Croce. For this commission Gentile Bellini supervised "a team of artists that included Vittore Carpaccio, Lazzaro Bastiana, Giovanni Mansueti and Benedetto Diana.... The decoration comprised eight paintings of scenes from the Legend of the True Cross (Venice, Accad.) of which Gentile painted three: the Procession of the True Cross in the Piazza S Marco (1496), the Miracle of the True Cross at the Bridge of S Lorenzo (1500) and the Miraculous Healing of Pietro de' Ludovici (1501)."[7] All the scenes are unquestionably set in Venice, most of were completed before 1500, and they tend to show outdoor scenes teaming with diverse people, including large numbers of patricians. They are perfect for my study. An article about the artists and the stories being told in each scene is at Old and Sold.com.

Giovanni Mansueti created a large number signed pictures, many of which are dated, and one signature declares the artist to be a pupil of Gentile Bellini. Like his master, he "provides a topographically accurate record of an actual location in Venice."[8]

Lazzaro Bastiani was quite possibly one of Carpaccio's primary teachers.[9]

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) is considered to be the greatest painter of the Venetian school; he was immensely successful within his lifetime.[10] I have, however, classed his works with the non-Venetian ones because though he was "based in Venice throughout his professional life, [he made] many commissions for royal and noble patrons outside Venice and Italy."[11] Most of his more influential works were completed after my target time period.

I include a small selection of Venetian figures from later in the sixteenth century due to their clear details and the similarity of the formal patrician dress across the decades. The images from Mores Italiae reproduce travel albums from the 1570s. These are "valuable sources for deciphering how foreign travellers perceived Italian costume, fashionable dress and customs in the early modern period.... They functioned not only to preserve the memories of persons encountered and places visited by also as a means to bring what and whom the traveller saw to bear on his own national identity."[12] These images cannot compare with the masters above for detail, and the portraits do not attempt to recreate any architecture or other details of place. These "miniature drawings [were] produced by local artists and then copied into private albums"[13] some of which, fortunately for us, have survived the centuries.


1. Stella Mary Newton, The Dress of the Venetians, 1495-1525 (Aldershot, England: Scolar Press, 1988), 40.

2. Stefania Mason, Carpaccio: the Major Pictorial Cycles; trans. Andrew Ellis (Milano, Italy: Skira, 2000).

3. Jane Turner, ed., The Dictionary of Art, vol.3, (New York: Groves Dictionaries Inc., 1996), 655.

4. Caroline Campbell and Alan Chong, Bellini and the East (London: National Gallery Co., 2005).

5. Turner, vol. 3, 658.

6. Turner, vol. 3, 659.

7. Turner, vol. 3, 656.

8. Turner, vol. 20, page number mistranscribed.

9. Turner, vol. 3, 356.

10. Turner, vol. 31, 31.

11. Turner, vol. 31, 31.

12. Maurizio Rippa Bonati and Valeria Finucci, eds., Mores Italiae: costumi e scene di vita del Rinascimento = Costume and Life in the Renaissance: Yale University, Beinecke Library, MS 457 (Cittadella, Padova: Biblos, 2007), 73.

13. Bonati, 74.