Wednesday 26 June 2013

Below the knee: pattens, shoes and hose - the MEDATS (Medieval Dress and Textile Society) summer meeting at the British Museum.

Figure 1 - Piece of sprang relaxed
What follows are my notes on what was said for four of the six papers given at the study day. I will write longer notes on the other two papers given; Jutta von Bloh – Refinements in sixteenth century princely legwear: examples from the court of the Duke of Saxony in the Dresden Armoury, and  Lesley O’Connell Edwards – “A Child of 20 yer that knytt gret hose by whom cometh their chiefe lyvinge”: archival and archaeological evidence for hand-knitted hose in Elizabethan England, as they fit better with the period covered by this blog. The notes are my personal interpretation, and depend on how fast I could write and how well I could keep up and understand. Any mistakes and misinterpretations are my own. 

Dagmar Drinkler, Bayerischen Nationalmuseum, Munich – The Reconstruction of tight-fitting textiles in Sprang Technique
Figure 2 Piece of sprang stretched

Dagmar’s thesis was she had been looking at tight garments and especially the highly patterned hose, for example as in the gondoliers in a 1494 painting by Vittorio Carpaccio, and wondering how they were made. She had been experimenting with sprang to see if it were possible to reproduce patterns that appear in medieval illustrations, in order to create a stretch fabric that would produce tight fitting hose. The same piece of sprang, woven in a pattern that copies some of those used in the medieval period is shown in figure 1 relaxed, and in figure 2 stretched to show how much elasticity there is in the fabric. Dagmar recommended Pater Collingwood's The techniques of sprang, 1999, and Carol James Sprang unsprung, 2011.


Timothy Dawson, Independent scholar – Trousers to Trousers in less than a Thousand Years

Tim took us through from the closed hose of the Thorsberg trousers in the 2nd century AD to the closed hose of Ferdinand II of Aragon (d. 1516) via all the two separate leg styles of the Middle Ages. We looked at and discussed the hose of Clement II (d.1047), the hose of St Desiderius (12th C), Hose of Henry III of Germany (c.1056), the hose of Rodrigo Ximenez de Rodo (d. 1247), by this point in time Tim said that point at the rear of the hose where starting to creep up towards the back. Many of the examples Tim used can be seem on this pinterest page on medieval hose. Question of bias or straight cut, and belts and attachments were addressed.


June Swann, formerly of the Northampton Museum – Fourteenth and Fifteenth century poulaines?

June said she added the question mark to the title having recently looked at some surviving complete poulaines. Poulaine is old French for Polish and the style of shoe is also referred to as a Krakow or pike, they are shoes with very long toes, this one was not shown by June but is in the Met Museum. June showed an image from the 1371 tomb of Kasimir the Great as an example of the early style.  The toes on poulaine curve outward, and Pope Urban V (pope 1362-1370) criticized priests for wearing them. The first reference to the word poulaine in England is 1388 and relates to armour, it is a hundred years later but armoured poulaine appear with the c.1485 parade armour of the future Maximilian I. June pointed out that early, 14th century poulaine laced on the inside of the foot, and later 15th century shoe laced on the outside. The cuff turns down all the way around. June had recently examined some surviving poulaine in collections in London, Nuremburg and Antwerp, all of which had entered the collections in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Having examined them she has some worries regarding them, and suggested people stick to known excavated examples. She did not use this example but here are some in situ photographs of poulaine being excavated in London. June also asked if anyone had actually seen a contemporary illustration of the toes of poulaine being tied up, as she had been unable to find any such illustration.


 Aimee Payton, Ashmolean Museum – Shoes in the community: engaging the public with medieval footwear

Aimee talked about connecting with the public and getting them the write the descriptions to some medieval shoes being put on display as part of an outreach project. The difficulties of getting the descriptions within a 120 word limit were examined.

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