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Men's Clothing in 15th Century Florence, Page 1

by Vangelista di Antonio Dellaluna

A collection of portraits of men. Actually men's portraits abound in Italian art, revealing a trend of heavier to lighter, more to less formal, as the century progressed.

Sienese fresco, 1435
Domenico di Bartolo,
Pope Celestinus III Grants Privilege of Independence to the Spedale
Detail, 1434, Florentine school.

Painted in Siena on the walls of the Hospital of Santa Maria Della Scala around 1440-1444, this young man is one of the best-known images in Renaissance art. He is painted on the east wall of the church, part of the painting now known as Extension of Privileges by Celestine III, painted by Domenico di Bartolo.

From Ferrets in History, this lovely close-up shows us a fop from the back. The Sienese were apparently famous for being fashionable, and this young man is right in tune. The most striking of his garments is a voluminous cioppa (called a "houpelande" elsewhere in Europe), made of delicate sage-green brocade lined with greyish-blue quilting (I think it is quilted because of that square pattern the fabric has; it doesn't look embroidered or woven in). The bluish fabric forms a deep, topstitched trim along the bottom of the hem and sleeves. The left sleeve is tossed casually up over the shoulder to show off a deep red farsetto (doublet) with a fancy trimmed or rolled wrist. The neck of the garment, from the back, is v-shaped, a common shape. Notice how the hems of the body of the garment and its sleeves stick out -- they are almost stiff. The pleats are thick with lots of substance to them.

For accessories, the fop wears blue hose with partecolored red-and-white boots with jagged tops. His hat is almost cavalier-style, trimmed in red along the upturned brim. From the front this probably looks a bit like a cowboy hat!

The author of the "Ferrets in History" page makes a good case for that brown thing on the fop's neck being a ferret. The right side of the neckline is the same bluish-grey as the rest of the trim.

Throwing your sleeve back is an art. Examine carefully how this young fop does his: The outer layer of the sleeve, with the green brocade, is still visible the way he arranges things. You want that edge to be right up there and visible. The custom is called togata and was meant to evoke a classical-era look. All in all, it's easy to see why the Sienese were considered rather ostentatious.

Cosme Tura, Portrait of a Young Man, 1450.

This is a far simpler design and one that looks very appropriate for everyday and summer wear. The young man wears a dark farsetto, or doublet, perhaps hunter green in color, beneath a giornea, or pleated tabard. The farsetto is pretty simple of design, with a stand-up collar and semi-fitted sleeves. The giornea is black with no trim. There's no way of knowing exactly how the bottom looks, of course. The thing I wanted to point out here is the outfit's simplicity. No fussy embroidery, no weird trims, no beading. The only embellishment at all are a pair of "arming ribbons" on the youth's upper sleeves that you see all the time in this period. They're useless, of course, but they look pretty. At one time they probably were used to fasten armor. These are probably made of leather thongs. The back of the farsetto's collar very likely forms a v-shape, also very fashionable.

Of course, here you also see a red cap, this one very simple and semi-cylindrical. Also note the teeny rim of white undershirt peeking out from that farsetto collar.

Benozzo Gozzoli, St. Francis Giving Away His Clothes, Detail, 1452. Florentine school; fresco in Montefalco.

Here we see a middle-class fellow with truly dapper style. He wears a mauve robe with the pleats we've come to expect, with red hose, black shoes, and a red cap that looks somewhat cylindrical. Get a good look at his shoes -- these are easy to find in most mundane shops. The green thing across his arm is a garment being handed to him; his own sleeves are almost leg-o-mutton, with puffy tops and fitted down at the wrists, though it's impossible to tell if they are one or two-piece because of the green thing. His robe is slit up the side, probably so he can work. He wears a thin, plain grey belt that is apparently fastened in the front over fairly thin pleats -- perhaps this garment isn't stiffened like a more expensive one might be. This outfit looks like a very servicable one for summers and general labor.

Benozzo Gozzoli, The School of Tagaste, 1464, detail. From a fresco in San Gimignano.

Where to start? Here is a fine sampling of various middle-class to upper-class men's garments. Starting from the left, one sees a proud father with his son. The boy is outfitted in a hanging-sleeve cioppa, thickly pleated, with fur trim. He also wears matching hose and no visible shoes. His farsetto, underneath the cioppa, is a rich red. The father's robe is more elaborate, with angelwing sleeves lined in rich fur, and it reaches the ground. He wears a sort of liripipe hat and a white farsetto.

The professor examining the spoiled brat wears a longer red robe, lined in dark grey material (perhaps fur). It is likely open at the sides, because one line of trim goes up the left side of it, to the belt. Note that the sleeves aren't terribly fitted at the wrist and that the garment is altogether longer than usual. The professor also wears red hose with no shoes.

The two youths behind the professor wear basic middle-class clothing. The one on the left wears a short-sleeved garment similar to a giornea called a gonnellino, also open at the sides, made of orange fabric trimmed in blue. He wears matching hose and bright red shoes. Naturally he also wears a farsetto beneath his gonnellino, this one in dark green with very fitted forearms. Note the collar of the robe -- it is a v-neck, as many are.

The youth's friend, behind him, wears an interesting giornea of dark red over a jerkin of dark blue. The tabard is cut to fall in folds, not like a typical SCA tabard which is basically long rectangles. It seems to be lined in white fur and trimmed along the edges. The doublet beneath it is thigh-length, with semi-fitted sleeves, and is clearly meant to be worn with yet another doublet beneath it -- there is a bit of dark green sleeve peeking out from the doublet's own sleeve. He does not wear shoes with his bright red hose.

A fellow stands behind the two friends with an infant on his back. The infant's clothes are not easily made out, but the fellow holding him is wearing a loose-cut garment over a more fitted doublet.

And on the right, we get another view of the professor and his now-chastened pupil. We can now see that the professor wears a more fitted garment beneath that robe, and we get a better look at the boy's two-piece sleeves under those hanging outer sleeves. The two-piece sleeves are very typical of the period.

Triumph of May: 
Thumbnail 1 Francesco del Cossa, detail from Triumph of May, Ferrara, about 1470. (Click here to see a larger image)

This image is from the "Hall of Months" in the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara. Here we see a young man at the height of fashion. He wears a baby-girl pink giornea edged in ruffles and trim, with just the front side belted (as many SCA ladies wear their sideless surcoat dresses now). The back side just flaps in the breeze. His forest-green farsetto has the split forearms popular in Ferrara and Florence, with plenty of camicia sleeve visible through the split. Note also his bright red arming-ribbons, flowing from his upper arm sleeve.

His multicolored hose are red and blue, with one boot on the blue side. The boot buttons up the inside seam, leaving the blue hose underneath showing through. There doesn't seem to be any kind of shoe on the left foot. It seems clear that his hose go to the waist -- either that or he's wearing bright red Fruit of the Looms there.

You should also note his hat. I've heard these called "Phrygian caps", though I haven't seen the term in period yet.

Triumph of May: 
Thumbnail 2 Francesco del Cossa, detail from Triumph of May, Ferrara, about 1470. (Click here to see a larger image)

Our second "Triumph of May" detail has a lot of things in it to take in. He wears what appears to be a forest-green velvet giornea with no side seams, rather fuller than the first youth's tabard-like garment. This one appears to be quilted, or perhaps lined in fur. The outer edges of it certainly are edged in fur and a wide layer of lighter green trim. The neckline has more elaborate trim in the same color, plus a cross pendant dangling from the bottom of the "V" (incidentally, most outer garments had a V-shaped back neckline). The garment only reaches to the thigh. It is belted with a plain-looking brown belt that is buckled in back.

His dove-gray farsetto also has split forearms. Note that the split occurs just above the elbow -- it is much easier to move one's arm if you do it this way, and it looks a lot nicer. The upper sleeve is gathered to the lower sleeve. The lower sleeve is laced up fairly tightly. One can also see the middle back seam above the giornea's neckline, and seams right under the armholes. The neck of the farsetto looks fairly high. Naturally, he's got some pretty white camicia collar peeking above the farsetto, and plenty of sleeve showing through his forearm slits.

His hose are particolored, with one leg plain white, the other white-and-red. He may have soles set into the feet of the hose. The hose both have back seams running right down the center back of each leg.

del Cossa, Francesco del Cossa, Portrait of St. Florian,, 1473. Florentine school.

St. Florian is a 3rd-century saint who is now the patron saint of firefighters. A Roman army officer, he is said to have put out a housefire by throwing just one bucket of water at it. I'm including this painting here so you can see the trim and the cloak, both of which I think are quite neat. The tunic is a Renaissance-era painter's idea of what a Roman might wear, but note how much fuller it is than a medieval artist might depict. The trim takes the form of contrasting edging on the tunic hem and a facing on the vertical-slit neckline. The sleeve edges are also trimmed. Also note the boots, which look contemporary both to our period and to the artist's. The leggings look like nice warm wool, from the creases in his knees.

verrocchio_bust.jpg Andrea del Verrocchio, "Bust of Lorenzo de Medici", about 1480, Florence.

This terracotta sculpture depicts one of the greatest men in Florentine history. His personality really comes through on this bust. First, note the hat, a modified liripipe. Not for him, the frou-frou long pointy pipe and dagged edges of a traditional liripipe. This hat looks more like a long woolen cylinder with an open end and a narrow rolled edge. He wears it over an austere pageboy haircut.

On his body, he wears a sleeveless giornea over a doublet. This giornea has a narrow stand-up collar and appears to fasten down the middle front. It is pleated down the front. Little can be seen of his sleeves, except that they are clearly not the poofy big two-piecers that were so common just a decade or so earlier. He also wears a narrow scarf around his neck and shoulders, a fairly unusual touch. He wears no visible jewelry or tokens of office.

The Florentine Closet


This page last edited January 23, 2011.

All text copyright Vangelista di Antonio Dellaluna, except where otherwise noted, and may not be reproduced elsewhere except with permission. All portraits are understood to be copyright- free and are presented as research aids only. Author makes no guarantees of accuracy.