A 1506 RAPHAEL GOWN
Florentine dress, based on Raphael's portrait of Maddalena Strozzi Doni (ca. 1506).
My Maddalena Doni dress won the silver medal of the Rose Award 2005, something I deeply appreciate. Thanks - it really meant a lot to me! I didn't even think my dress would be in the top 10 as it was different from the style in vogue and with screaming colours, and I also stepped in in the last minute. When others told me that my dress was one of the winners, I actually started sobbing...
The portraits painted by Raphael (1483-1520) are some of my favourites, because both colours, composition and details are eye candy. You can almost touch the fabrics, and you can see where the seams are, and any wrinkles on bodices and fluffy hair is also depicted very carefully. I love it. I have quite a few dresses from his portraits that I'd like to re-create, but my first choice was the one of Maddalena Doni, born Strozzi (1506). It was something about the bodice being front laced that appealed to me. I bought a flaming orange velvet for the dress itself, and some blue damask pluss patterned orange silk for the sleeves - they are reversible.
I've liked this style of dress since I first saw a replica of Raphaels "Donna Gravida" in the musical Which Witch. And when I saw the lovely early Florentine dress by Jennifer Thompson I decided I needed to try that style as well. Her gown is like a portrait coming alive. I needed one too. The first the thought of making my own dress in this style - after seeing the other pretty frocks out there - freaked me out. But they were also a great inspiration. Raphael was my obvious choice of inspiration, and I had such a hard time deciding on just one dress. Eventually my choice came down to the Maddalena Doni portrait. Maddalena's bodice is front laced, which is rare in this type of dress, and there are some interesting eyelets viewable. Also, the trims and bows of the dress is nice. And oh! - the colours! Orange silk and blue damask.... I found a lovely orange velvet fabric for the Maddalena gown, as well as some suitable blue cotton/viscose damask for the sleeves. The fabrics aren't too historical correct except being natural fibres, but they gave the look I wanted. I've also bought a most interesting orange silk fabric for the reversed side of the sleeves; orange with a brown and golden pattern.
It took me quite some time to see the beauty of the Maddalena Doni portrait, and the dress as well. I always saw it as a ripoff of the "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci, but with less beauty. And certainly, the Maddalena Doni portrait has borrowed many features from Mona Lisa, especially the pose. But it also has a beauty of it's own. The more I looked at it, the more it intrigued me.
When I made this dress back in 2004/2005, I saw it as pretty unique in Florentine context. Few dresses of this era shows front lacing like Maddalena's bodice, and the bodice trim as also interesting. But a few years later I found a tiny online version of a painting by Giuliano Bugiardini, called The Birth of St. John the Baptist. To my very big surprise, it displays a dress which is nearly identical to the Maddalena Doni one. Not only are the colours and the style the same, it also has a front closing with trims similar to the Doni one. Whether he's based his figure on Maddalena Doni's portrait, or it just shows a style in vogue... I don't know. Bugiardini is close to Raphael in style, both working within the Florentine high Renaissance style with a dash of Rome. Bugiardini even appears to have modelled his "The Nun" (ca. 1506-10) portrait after Raphael's Donna Gravida (ca. 1505-06). It has been very hard finding info on the John the Baptist painting, but it appears to have been made around 1510 and is today at Stockholm University.
1. Portrait of Maddalena Doni, Raphael, ca. 1506 (Palazzo Pitti, Florence)
2. Portrait of Maddalena Doni, Raphael ca. 1506 (Palazzo Pitti, Florence)
3. Closeup of the portrait, Raphael ca. 1506 (Palazzo Pitti, Florence)
4. Portrait of Agnes Breu, Jorg Breu the Elder ca. 1501-06 (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid)
5. Birth of St. John the Baptist, Giuliano Bugiardini ca. 1510 (Stockholm Universitet Kunstsamling)
Turning to German and Flemish fashion of the time, I also think there's a certain similarity in the Maddalena Doni portrait and the one of Agnes Breu by Jorg Breu the Elder (painted between 1501 and 1506 sometime). Renaissance painters turned towards the north for their innovative style of portraits. The turned pose of the sitter, and the minute details in clothes and jewellery, as was especially typical for Flemish portraits, is something the Florentines adopted in the late 1400', abandoning the traditional profile portraits. The Doni dress is somewhat echoed by the lines in the Breu portrait, in the rounded neckline and the use of trims and metal decorations in front. The outlines of the Doni partlet also echoes the jewellery cord of the Breu portrait. It's impossible to say whether this is coincidental or not, but I found it interesting anyhow - especially since they were painted in the same decade.
I decided to try out the hemp cord technique of Jennifer Thompson. Her own Florentine dress
is awesome, and those who have tried the method has made lovely creations as well. It just looks so right. I highly recommend the hemp cord technique: it's more comfortable than any other boning I've tried out. And easier - you don't have to tape the ends, like metal and rigilene boning. It also gives high Renaissance just the right look. It curves where it ought to curve, but at the same time it allows the fabric to appear smooth and supported. I did use a slightly too thick cord for this project, so the bodice is a little heavy. When I tried the method again, in the Unicorn dress, I used a slightly thinner hemp cord, which worked even better.
I turned to Jennifer Thompson's Florentine dress for the bodice pattern as well, but with a few alternations since her was side laced and mine front laced. I added a seam in the back, closed the sides and added an opening in the front. The front is more curved, and the bodice is also slightly longer. I would have cut the bodice a tad shorter, had I not screwed up the skirt (see below)...
1. The "hemped" bodice
2. and 3. Bodice in making, with alternate orange and blue sleeves (reversible)
4. Closeup of shoulder area, with homemade "aglets"
5. Backshot, showing the pleated skirt and the squareness of the bodice
6. The ornamental buttons, transformed into flat "grommets" with holes
7. The pendant, with a "gold" base and with inserted "gems" and a hanging pearl
The eyelets in front was probably the hardest thing to recreate in this dress. They are ornamental and wide, and IS half of the dress as far as I've concerned. I searched high and low for something that looked similar, but to no avail. Not when it came to eyelets, anyway. But buttons! Because of the strong folk costume traditions in Norway ornamental metal buttons, hooks and similar is widely available. In a random fabric shop I came across some lovely "brass" buttons which, with some moderations, would be excellent for the purpose. I removed the backside, gently squeezed them flat and used a special tool to pierce the middle of them. First time I wore the dress the "eyelets" were so sharp on the edges that it kept cutting the lacing cord (...thank God for chemises....), so I had to polish the rough sides a bit.
The bodice has handsewn lacing holes in front, and the "eyelets" are placed on top of these. Proper eyelets would BE the hole rather than being placed on top, but it gave the right look. To be able to attach them to the bodice my father suggested that I pierced a small hole on each side, and so I did. I worked very well, and I love how my father involves himself in my costume projects. There are seven holes on each side of the bodice, just like the portrait shows, and they add a very distinctive look.
The skirt is made of a straight rectangle; 3,5 meters of viscose velvet. It was pleated in place, not having any seams or gores. This is not too unlike period constructions, where straight pieces was used, sometimes with the additions of gores. Originally I thought the skirt was too long, so I cut of a chunk of the bottom. What is the ONE thing one should never to before attaching the skirt to the bodice? Right... The skirt ended up too short! However, one of my livejournal friends suggested that I re-attached the piece I cut off, covering the seam by on of the guards. And it worked very well. A bit extra work, but the end result was nice.
The pleatings of the Maddalena gown is barely visible, so I really can't tell what is used there. It's probably not cartridge pleats, since few early Renaissance dresses seems to have used it (see Florentine Renaissance gallery). I suspect box pleats might be right, but I wanted to try out knife pleats for once. The Unicorn portrait displays a neat knife pleated skirt, and I've tried to recreate those. It is a rather valid choice for this style of dress, at least. The Unicorn dress shows all pleats going in the same direction. But since the Maddalena Doni one is front laced, I chose to let the pleats turn "away" from the bodice on each side in front, meeting in a double pleat in the back. I like the effect.
The bottom of the skirt has guards matching the bodice; one wide and one narrow(er), of royal blue velvet ribbons. They were actually a nightmare to attach, and someone later told me that it's easier to attach velvet to velvet if the area is "shaved" on forehand. I might give it a try another time. The end result looks nice enough, but slightly bulky at places - and they're all handsewn and caused me much work...
The sleeves were also inspired by Jennifer Thompson's pattern, and they offers the right shape and look. They are round sleeves made of one piece, being almost as curved in the sides as in top, and I chose to make them reversible, with different colours on each side. The basic blue side is made of a patterned blue cotton/viscose damask, whereas the reverse side is made of orange silk with a brown/golden pattern. The latter is very lush. The sleeves are tied to the bodice by two brown strings with golden "aglets" in the bottom.
For this dress I use a plain brass metal chain as girdle, as seen in the portrait - though hers is without doubt of gold. I also made a pendant with green and red stones, attached to a leather cord, also seen in the portrait. I tried to make a thin silk partlet with black trimmings, but it turned out too narrow in front, and won't stay in place when I move. Guess I have to make a new one eventually.
I'VE SEEN IT!!
Sometimes my life take amazing turns. In the autumn of 2008 I got the chance to spend a month in Rome, studying art history. I can't tell you how grateful I am for such an opportunity. I tried to visit as many museums and historical sights as possible, and when we had a short 24 hour trip to Florence I skipped dinner and strolled over to the Pitti Palace. Bough by Eleonora di Toledo in 1549/50 as a summer/guest residence, today it houses various museums. The costume museum there is in charge of the surviving 16th century Medici garbs, while the pinacoteca holds a wonderful collection of paintings, amongst other the ones of the Doni couple. It was awesome to see them side by side, and to see how vibrant the colours of Maddalena Doni's dress really is.
-5 metres of a flamboyant orange viscose velvet (main dress)
-2 metres of unbleached cotton (for lining the bodice
-5 metres of a medium broad navy velvet ribbon (skirt hem and bodice)
-4 metres of a broad navy velvet ribbon (skirt hem and bodice)
-3 metres of royal blue cotton/viscose brocade (blue sleeves)
-3 metres of a patterned orange/brown silk (orange sleeves)
-14 "gold" buttons, transformed into eyelets for lacing (front bodice)
-3 metres of brass chain (girdle)
+ partlet, jewellery etc.
My historical Renaissance garbs:
Jennifer Thompson's dress
Rose Award 2005
Research site for the styles of the era
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