Roughly chronicled on the historical timeline
as a period marked from the 14th to the 17th centuries,
the Renaissance amounted to a high point of European civilization.
Translated to mean a “rebirth”, it is considered a cultural movement
which commenced in Italy, eventually spread throughout Europe
and bridged the divide between the medieval period
and that of the early modern era.
The Renaissance seemed a time of energised activity and new perspectives:
of intense study of the past and innovation for the future.
It was characterised by keen enthusiasm for
knowledge of classical history of the ancient world
exploration of the New World
urbanisation and the growth of cities
manufacturing and invention.
It was a time of the established great and grand
as well as the rise of the social climber.
It was a time of magnficientia .
As commerce in cities steadily soared,
there were many opportunities for money-making ventures.
Prince, courtier, merchant- all had the means for displays of wealth
and went to some lengths to ensure that all knew.
Magnificentia was key to this Renaissance attitude-
that of conspicuous expenditure.
Some financed the construction of public buildings.
Others bought works of art for private collection and
there were those who spent their acquired wealth on looking fabulous.
Matthäus Schwarz (1497 – 1574)
was a German accountant who worked for the Fugger family,
a prominent German mercantile and banking house.
From an early age Schwarz was captivated by fashion.
He spent most of his income on clothes
and on chronicling himself attired in his garments.
It would seem that Herr Schwarz was the first recorded “fashion blogger”-
an accountant by trade and a serious sartorial stylisto by vocation.
by German portraitist, Hans Maler
For forty years, 1520 – 1560, he commissioned watercolour paintings
of himself in various fashionable outfits.
His first watercolour “fashion sitting” was at the age of 23.
(which dictated what a person could and could not wear
given their social rank)
put some restrictions on the range of Herr Schwarz’s ensembles.
Yet, he did manage to acquire an enviable wardrobe,
which reflected his sense of fashion innovation.
(image from tumblr.com):
At 29 1/2 years old
Herr. Schwarz had his his forty years of “selfie” watercoulour fashion images
bound into a book, titled Klaidungsbüchlein (Book of Clothes).
It is probably the first book on personal style and fashion-
of an evolution of self expression and identity through clothing worn.
The book is of interest to scholars as source material to
images of Renaissance dress.
An outfit for every occasion
(image from ttolk.ru):
From the back
wearing fur and red tights
(image from medievalists.net):
As archer in a suit of yellow/grey ruffles
with colour alternating hosiery
(image from bbc.co.uk):
With lute in an embroidered lilac tunic with gold details
cinched at waist with matching hose
In wide brimmed hat, embellished top, tiered breeches and solid tights
In the nude
back and full frontal
(Body appreciation without the trappings of clothing.)
Red as go to colour statement
(image from notevenpast.org):
Black/white coulour story: a young Schwarz with falcon (l)
Black ensemble with a peek of red: an older Schwarz (r)
(image from univ-paris1.fr):
On horseback in an outfit of puff sleeves and full pleated skirt
(images from bbc.co.uk):
At work and play
At the ready
in armor attire
Only two books of Klaidungsbüchlein (Book of Clothes) were made-
the original and a copy.
The readership was limited to a select few of the author’s choosing.
Through the generations, the books had remained in the possession of
Herr. Schwarz’s descendants.
The original is now in the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum
in Braunschweig, Germany
For further reading on Matthäus Schwarz and Renaissance dress, have a look at:
Dressing Up: Cultural identity in Renaissance Europe
by Professor Ulinka Rublack, Cambridge University