A journey across centuries of fashion accessories spotted across the collections of Turin museums
1200 - 1521
This type of precious ornament, which could be made in metal or obsidian, or in rock crystal, was inserted into the lower lip through a hole made above the chin. The curved part was shaped so that it would rest against the gum. The head of the bird of prey, which is made with great realism, emerges from a crown of little spheres which divide the plain functional part from the ornamental part outside. In Mexican culture, these decorations were the prerogative of dignitaries and high-ranking warriors. This specimen was probably made by Mixtecan craftsmen, a population conquered and exploited by the Aztecs for their skills. The diverse works of the Mixtecs ranged from illustrated books to polychrome ceramics, to jewels in gold and hardstone.
c. 520 AD
This fibula of Ostrogothic origin is made of silver, with gold cloisonné compartments, green glass and garnets. The semicircular top is adorned with four stylised eagle heads, while the foot bears an interlaced-ribbon motif. In Germanic culture, these fibulae were used to fasten the mantle at shoulder height. It was discovered in mysterious circumstances in Desana, in an area between Vercelli and the Po River, together with other precious objects. A total of 47 items were found, including earrings, bracelets, pendants, rings, and spoons in silver, gold, and precious stones, dating from the fourth or fifth century AD, clearly illustrating Ostrogothic and Late Roman goldsmithing
Parure of necklaces, earrings, and part of a bracelet
Late 18th century - Early 19th century
The necklace consists of 14 oval medallions: the central one contains a little bouquet of violets above which hangs a garland of forget-me-nots; As they approach the clasp the medallions become smaller, as do the ivory bouquets within them. The bouquets have an extraordinary variety of leaves and flowers (daisies, roses, forget-me-nots, cornflowers, and more). All the details are clearly carved, changing in size as the necklace radiates out. the same exquisiteness and ethereality can be seen in the bracelet and in the pendants of the earrings, which are adorned on the piercing with two little doves.
Pendant with Marguerite de Valois
The pendant portrays Margaret of France, the daughter of Francis I of France and, in 1559, the wife of Duke Emanuel Philibert of Savoy. We see her wearing a sumptuous dress and a characteristic coiffure with a net cap fastened to her head by a string of set stones. The practice of sculpting unusual, pre-cious and rare materials in relief became commonplace in the Cinquecento as a result of the interest of princes and rulers in unique, amazing objects (rariora et mirabilia). This type of imagery is similar to that of portraits on coins and medals.
Wing of a mirror box with amorous scenes
First half 14th century
Ivory mirror cases were very popular in the Gothic age, and consisted of two panels enclosing a thin sheet of polished metal. The carvings often portrayed secular scenes of courtly life, chivalric episodes, or moments of courtship. In this case, we see the meeting of two lovers, hidden from sight by the large crown of a tree. The scene is rendered in the dynamic, elegant style of Paris workshops, which took pleasure in realistic details in their description of garments, as we see in the sleeve of the first character on the left, who is offering his heart to the girl. This naturalistic sensibility for settings and costumes was inspired by contemporary book decorations.
Mirror with two oriental figures, adorned with “Laub und Bandelwerk
Founded in Vienna in 1717 by the Dutchman Claudius Innocentius Du Paquier, the factory named after him was the second in Europe, after Meissen, to produce hard-paste porcelain. The decorative reper-toire of Du Paquier porcelain was inspired by contemporary silverware and one of its most characteris-tic and original motifs was its Laub und Bandelwerk (foliage and scrollwork) and monochrome decora-tion. The Museum’s Du Paquier Collection, which was donated by Emanuele Tapparelli d’Azeglio in 1874 and expanded through purchases in 1880-1881, is on show in the Ceramics Gallery on the sec-ond floor.
The Game of Chess by Giulio Campi
c. 1530 - c. 1532
This painting may conceal allegorical themes and portraits of real people (the figure of the buxom woman might allude to Venus, and that of the man-at-arms to Mars) and thus to a wedding event, but the interplay of glances, gestures, and allusions might suggest a group portrait: the melancholy young man looking towards the viewer might be Giulio Campi himself, as we see him in the self portrait certainly attributable to him in the Allegory in the Museo Poldi Pezzoli (Milan). The man leaning on the table might be his father Galeazzo.
Catherine Michelle of Austria, Duchess of Savoy
The Infanta of Spain, Catherine Michelle, who married Charles Emmanuel I of Savoy in 1585, is shown wearing a tall coiffure adorned with pearls, and a dress that is unusually bright, considering that she normally had herself portrayed in black or dark clothes embellished, as in this case, with pearls and jewels.
The background at the left of the painting is very interesting, for it shows the old gallery that used to join Palazzo Madama (in the distance, shown from the Po side) and the Palazzo Ducale (now Palazzo Reale).
The vase in the foreground is a precise quotation from an engraving by Johan Sadeler I (a Flemish en-graver with mannerist tastes); and it allows us to date the painting to the last years of the duchess’s life. She died giving birth at the age of thirty in 1597.
The public image of the “Infanta” called for jewelry covering the entire body. The most precious and representative pieces were the choker and the matching gold belt, embellished with precious stones and often decorated with varnish. Together with the choker and belt, Catalina wore pearls or chains, wrapped twice around her neck and worn as low as her waist. She wore jeweled buttons on her clothes, which could be transferred from one garment to another.
The Finding of Moses
The painter came to Turin as a stage designer for the 1730-1731 season at the Teatro Regio, and was later taken on by Filippo Juvarra for the decoration of the Savoy residences. The lively palette of colours and the luminosity of the close-ups are close to the frescoes in the royal hunting lodge of Stupinigi, while the corselet worn by the Pharaoh’s daughter, who takes up Moses, the neckline trimmed with a chain of pearls, and the coiffures inspired by whimsical exoticism all recall theatre costumes The biblical subject had been already chosen by Christine of France as a metaphor of the sovereign as the guard-ian of future generations. Similarly, we can see how also in the age of Charles Emmanuel III the subject had the same emblematic function, even though in a new, lighter form.
Towards end of the 18th century, women's clothing adopted simple shapes and light colors, inspired by current British fashions and Roman models of antiquity. The Countess of Albany, portrayed in 1796, wears a white chemise and a refined chanterelle trimmed with a lace cuff in black silk, with a light floral design. Even her hairstyle is perfectly fashionable, with loose hair pulled up at the back by a handkerchief knotted at the forehead.
1810 - 1815
The dress closely fits the body by means of a narrow cloth bodice around the breasts and the back. The loose line of the dress, with a high waist, is in accordance with the Empire fashions diffused across Europe by the Journal des Dames et des Modes. The skirt's hem is decorated with tulle garlands edged with ruffled ribbon, onto which lay contoured fabric oak leaves. The lustrous, naturally hued, silk, plays a leading role in this dress, exemplifying Napoleon's consumption relaunch of this fabric, to support French silk manufactures, following the craze for cottons, linens and light wools imported from abroad.
Potrait of A Man
Dated and signed “Antonellus messaneus pinxit”, this work came to the Museum from the City of Milan as compensation for the cancellation of Vittorio Viale’s negotiations for the purchase of the Trivulzio Collection. This painting is one of the finest created by Antonello, who was seeking to achieve a perfect balance between the analytical form of representation he had taken from the Flemish and the rational, perspective approach of the Italian Renaissance. The psychological keenness of the eyes, the ironic curl of the smile, and the stunning realism of the anatomical details make this painting one of the most famous portraits in all European art
Charles Emmanuel III of Savoy by Maria Giovanna Clementi, called La Clementina
In the eighteenth century, Clementina was the leading portraitist of the Savoy dynasty and of the Pied-montese aristocracy, whom she portrayed with great emphasis on the effects of the materials and with skilful touches of her brush picking out the light on details. Her portraits of members of the royal family were sent to the leading courts of Europe and given to nobles, officials, churches, and communities within the Kingdom.
Charles Emmanuel III (1701-1773) is shown here in full dress, with the collar of the equestrian Order of the Annunziata and the insignia of power on a cushion. The symbols of the dynasty – the knot, the silver cross and the black eagle – appear on the red-velvet and ermine cloak. Palazzo Madama also has one of Clementina’s first paintings, a portrait of Christine Louise of Bavaria (1722), the wife of Charles Em-manuel III.
Set of buttons
1790 - 1800
The figures depicted are of members of the french nobility and middle-class, which in 1792 defended the royal family opposing themselves against the revolutionary movements and excesses. With the 1789 revolution, political symbolism entered the attire of the French; the revolutionary partisans refused the use of knee breeches typically worn by the aristocracy (culottes), instead they adopted the long trousers worn by workers (from which originates the name sans-culottes).
Dress coat and breeches
1780 - 1790
Padded with cottonwool, the dress coat has a redingote cut. The front reveals eight embroidered buttons and three buttonholes which correspond to the second, third and fourth button. The coat also has eyelet loops in brown silk thread intended for honors and medals. The breeches, made of the same fabric, have a petit point fastening besides a lateral closure at the knee by means of buttons and an embroidered garter.
The work freezes a fragment of middle-class life, with the figures portrayed set in a space that is real, yet also minimal and abstract, just as the expressions of the individuals appear neutral, as if present but emotively distant from the happy event, waiting for the ritual photograph like immobile wax statues on a podium. The adamant and affected painting, together with the fixed and absorbed light, charge the atmosphere with an unreal lack of familiarity among those involved in the event, while the artist’s usual attention to clothing – perhaps because he was the son of a fabric dealer – reveals an intention of socially characterising the roles of those he portrays, whether they be clowns, spouses, harlequins or housewives.
Cura della mostra:
Maria Paola Ruffino, Curatore per le arti decorative, Palazzo Madama
e Carlotta Margarone, Responsabile Comunicazione, Fondazione Torino Musei