The portrait in the heavy gold frame depicts Baron Franz von Lipperheide (1835–1906), and is the work of the Austrian genre and history painter Franz Defregger. It hangs in the study hall of the Kunstbibliothek (Art Library) in Berlin, and commemorates the founder of the 'Lipperheide Costume Library'.
At the end of his life, Franz von Lipperheide could look back on a dazzling financial and social ascent. As a power-conscious publisher, in particular of fashion magazines, he belonged to the new elite of the German Empire. His vast fortune permitted him to indulge his passion for collecting – his collection of documents related to costume and fashion history was believed to be the largest one of its kind worldwide at that time.
The self-confident motto 'Nil temere, nil timide' (nothing rashly nor timidly), found on the ex libris of his library, also characterized their owner. In 1862, following an apprenticeship as a bookseller in Hamm and Leipzig, Franz Lipperheide came to Berlin 'with 14 thalers in his pocket,' laying the foundation stone of his future success there by founding the publishing house with bookshop 'Franz Lipperheide und Co.'
His first wife Frieda was the most important member of the firm, and served until her early death in 1896 as the indispensable editorial chief for the magazine 'Modenwelt, Illustrirte Zeitung für Toilette und Handarbeiten' (World of Fashion, an Illustrated Newspaper for Women’s Attire and Handicrafts), a top seller for the publisher. Frieda Lipperheide was the creative editor-in-chief and moving spirit of editorial operations; her husband Franz, in contrast, was the financial manager.
'Modenwelt' had the largest circulation of any fashion magazine of the time, with local editions in 12 different countries. In 1873, the extraordinary financial success of the publishing house allowed Lipperheide to purchase a large commercial and residential building located at Potsdamerstraße 38 (today number 96) in Berlin, which also accommodated the couple’s extensive collections.
In summer of 1892, the Lipperheides decided to donate their Collection for Costume Studies to the library of the Berlin Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Arts and Crafts) (today the Kunstbibliothek, or Art Library). In 1896, the collection encompassed 686 oil paintings, costume portraits from the 16th – 19th centuries, and 200 miniature portraits, along with 2750 drawings, 23,750 engravings, woodcuts, lithographs, and 2580 photographs. There were also 45 manuscripts, and more than 4000 books, almanacs, and magazines. The transfer of the systematically assembled research collection took place in 1899.
The deed of donation stipulated the independent maintenance of the library and the collections of graphics and paintings. In spring of 1906 did the Lipperheide Costume Library acquire prestigious rooms: a multipart study hall based on the integrated presentation of the paintings, graphics, and bookcases. An astonishingly innovative concept for a research infrastructure for that time, with the study hall presenting works of art in combination with the scholarly literature.
Internationally outstanding inventories are found in particular in the areas of books on regional dress and travel reports.
The title sheet of the 'Trachtenbuch' (Book of Costumes) by Hans Weigel from the year 1577 shows a naked European man carrying a roll of fabric and shears, who turns toward the inhabitants of Asia, the Americas, and Africa. With the Fall from Grace mankind recognizes its nakedness. This loss of impartiality impelled people to clothe themselves, and hence marks the beginning of fashion history.
Another seminal work on costumes was written 300 years later by Jacob Heinrich von Hefner-Alteneck. Entirely in the spirit of Romanticism, this artist and art historian compiled materials on medieval forms of dress. This was the era of Historicism, when costume research began to emerge as an independent discipline as a branch of modern scholarship.
In the early modern period, voyages of discovery and transnational commerce fostered a growing interest in styles of attire in various cultures. Illustrations of costumes shaped stereotypical conceptions of foreign peoples. Figures such as the 'African Bride,' drawn from the costume book of Ferdinando Bertelli, enjoyed great popularity, and were frequently copied.
Also found in the Lipperheide Collection are manuscripts, among them a costume book dating from 1580, which contains a meticulous drawing of a Venetian bride.
In 1551, the French geographer Geograf Nicolas de Nicolay visited the Ottoman Empire. His travel report, first published in 1567, contains 61 plates, and appeared subsequently in numerous editions and languages, of which the Lipperheide Costume Library owns a number of rare versions. The pictorial motifs would long stamp European conceptions of the outward appearance of Oriental peoples, i.e. the image of 'Arabian merchant'.
The imperial claim to power associated with these images is displayed in the allegorical title sheet of Abraham de Bruyn’s costume book, which took over nearly 50 figures from the travel report of Nicolas de Nicolay.
An example of the depiction of typical regional costume is the book by the Nuremberg publisher Johann Kramer. Seen here are two women with striking head coverings: a tall, wide-brimmed summer hat and a so-called 'Flitterhaube'.
Nuremberg’s dress codes regulated the workmanship of 'Flitterhauben' (spangled bonnets) in ways that depended upon the wearer’s social status. Characteristic of these bonnets is their circumferential trimming with gold-colored metal lamellae. Only high-status women were permitted to decorate their bonnets not with firmly affixed, but instead with loosely attached lamellae. In this instance, they were suspended from wire-wrapped tines , generating a characteristic tinkling sound. Brides wore them at their weddings and for several days afterwards – the origin of the German term 'Flitterwochen' (honeymoon).
Alongside books on the history of European and non-European clothing culture, the collection also encompasses texts that accompanied occasions such as weddings, popular festivals, and tournaments. A special focus is state ceremonies and princely celebrations in various countries. This engraving of a festival banquet shows the representatives of the three Lower Austrian estates seated at a long, lavishly laid table in a splendid hall in the Hofburg in Vienna.
With much humor and formal originality, Martin Engelbrecht’s 'Assemblage' is devoted to depictions of occupational groups such as weavers, dyers, tailors, furriers, tanners, girdle-makers, lace-makers, cobblers, hosiers, and makers of wigs, hats, gloves, and bags.
Another focus of the collection is on embroidery and lacemaking. An example is Margaretha Helm’s three-volume 'Kunst- und Fleiss-übende Nadel-Ergötzungen' (The Delights of the Art and Industry of the Practicing Needle), published in 1725 by Johann Christoph Weigel. Altogether 103 engraved plates display embroidery designs for gloves, safety pins, shoes, tablecloths, and book covers in white work embroidery, colored silk yarn, or metallic threads.
Fashion reviews and specialist magazines from the 18th century up to the present are another focus of the Lipperheide Costume Library. Found here is the 'Journal des Luxus und der Moden' (Journal of Luxury and Fashion), published in Weimar from 1786 until 1827, the first German magazine devoted to fashion, as well as the Gallery of Fashion, published in London from 1794 to 1803.
While the inception of the history of apparel is intimately bound up with the expulsion from Paradise, it is nonetheless ‘paradisiacal’ conditions that await students, teachers, and researchers from the realms of academia, journalism, and fashion or costume design who conduct research and hunt for inspiration in the study hall of the collection.
Text: Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Britta Bommert and Joachim Brand, Franz von Lipperheide und seine „Sammlung für Kostümwissenschaft“, in: Imprimatur Bd. 26, München 2019, Seite 39–62.
Editorial: Michael Lailach
Translation: Ian Pepper
Realisation: Justine Tutmann
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Photo: Dietmar Katz, Harald Rudolf, Anna Russ