[Ansteorra] Period furs- short rebuttal

Holly Frantz hefrantz at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 25 16:32:15 PST 2001

For two examples of animal tails and parts (not
necessarily ermine) in period portraiture, please see:

Family of Uberto de' Sacrati, c. 1480, possibly a
family of idiots?
Man with a Golden Paw, c. 1527, may be a real paw, may
be jewelry

Both available at the web gallery of art.


Niccola Setaro

--- "C. Weed" <cweed at austin.rr.com> wrote:
> Colete penned:
> Switching gears here... Common sense tells me
> that if the cat was skinned then the fur might
> have been used for lining tunics, cloaks, and
> various other parts of clothing. How true is
> this? (I've always imagine lining as bunny fur.)
> *******
> My research in this area is very limited as I try to
> stick to the timeframes
> with which I'm most enamored: 1430-1495 in southern
> France and what is now
> Germany, and more recently 1560-1570 in Holland.
> Strictly using paintings and written sources, fur
> almost never appears as a
> lining of even the lower or middle class citizens in
> the Burgundian era.
> Squirrel seems to be the most predominant fur for
> lining the heavy outer
> garments for the upper class.  Ermine is generally
> used for garments of
> ceremony, although it can be seen in some
> upper-class garments (see van Eyks
> "Arnolfini Wedding" or "St. Jerome at His Study"
> dated 1434 and 1441,
> respectively).  These examples of a slickish white
> fur *could* be a
> depiction of rabbit but I find it unlikely due to
> the remarkable fragility
> of rabbit skin on the whole and the implication of
> status that ermine in the
> white brings.
> In contrast, ermine is not often found in Dutch
> portraiture of a hundred
> years later, being seen nearly exclusively on court
> and (less commonly)
> clerical vestments.  On the rare occasions that the
> lower class is depicted
> with a fur lined garment at all (see Breughels
> "Peasant Dance") the garment
> appears to be either a cast off or worn out trapping
> of a wealthier previous
> owner.
> Whenever the question of what fur to use pops up,
> keep in mind the capacity
> in which it will be used.  If it's for Duchess
> Politicalmarriage, then it's
> likely to be rare and expensive and hard to acquire.
>  Ever try to nab a
> squirrel without a shotgun?  The clever little
> buggers learn about traps
> quickly... and ermine are even worse being even
> smaller and in the weasel
> family.  Squirrel is the more durable of the two-
> what a coincidence that we
> see it on a lot of outdoor scenes.  My wife is about
> to undertake the
> construction of a mens houppelande entirely lined in
> squirrel and guesses at
> around 125 of the little devils are going to have to
> join in and help- I'll
> let you speculate on what it would take in ermine at
> 1/4 the size.
> It just isn't practical for the commoner to wear
> fur, even when there are no
> ordinances against it.  You can't wear it when
> you're hot.  It stinks when
> it's wet.  It gets stiff.  In order to get it to
> last you have to wear the
> furs that aren't all that much to look at.  You
> might as well wear wool...
> so they did.  The exceptions seem to be mittens and
> hats.  Requiring less
> fur to make as well as fur that is not as fine, we
> see both of these items
> in abundance in the art of both of these timeframes.
>  Stiffness in a hat is
> often desirable.  Here, if anywhere, is where you
> might see rabbit fur, what
> with it's ready availability to the lower classes
> everywhere in Europe.
> As a final related note, animal *tails* are often
> seen dangling from the
> clothing and belts and sundry possessions of
> sca-ers.  In both the periods I
> mention, having animal tails depending from you or
> your possessions is an
> indicator to those around you that you are either an
> invalid or insane or in
> some other way not suited for any other task than
> begging for alms.  (see
> Brueghels "Battle Between Carnival and Lent" or "The
> Cripples" for details)
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