[Ansteorra] Period furs- short rebuttal

C. Weed cweed at austin.rr.com
Sun Nov 25 22:25:23 PST 2001

Niccola Setaro penned:

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.



In the family portrait you refer to, the prominent 'danglies' depending from
the upper sleeves of both father and son are not, in point of fact, animal
tails.  Rather, they are thick cloth points used to attach the outer sleeves
(obviously not pictured here).  The wide bow-tie type points first appear on
the fashion scene around the time of this portrait (c. 1480)and can widely
be seen up through the cavalier period.  Ghirlandaios "Herrods Banquet" has
several examples of that same strange mid-sleeve placement. Other examples
of points of a similar thickness can be found at the site you mentioned in
the following portraiture (I didn't get past the letter 'D' in the 1550s but
I think this will do for a start):

BOLTRAFFIO, Giovanni Antonio "Portrait of a Young Woman"
BOTTICELLI, Sandro "Portrait of an Unknown Personage with the Medal of
Cosimo il Vecchio"
COSTA, Lorenzo "Portrait of a Woman"
TURA, Cosme "Portrait of a Young Man"

BORGOÑA, Juan de "Lady with a Hare"
BRONZINO, Agnolo "Lucrezia Panciatichi"
DÜRER, Albrecht "Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman"

I would like to add my own short qualifiers, however, concerning tails and

Firstly, that ermine tails seem to have always been outside the regular
implication that other animal tails seem to represent.  Their tiny black dot
seems to consistently have been just the chic addition to judicial and royal
robes from the 1300s onwards.

Secondly, that fox seems to have risen sharply in popularity in the 16th
century (but only readily available to the upper and upper-middle class yet
again).  Fox tails, however, still indicate that the wearer is drooling on
the church steps.

Lastly, that as Lady Niccola pointed towards already, there became in the
late 15th century and all through the 16th century an affinity for other
animal bits to be gilded and trussed with loot and toted about as jewelry.
Heads and feet seem to be the rule on these morbid little treasures.
Although not represented on the Web Gallery of Art, Moroni did a wonderful
portrait of a lady in pink (recently on display in Dallas) with what can
only be described as The Great Gilded Weasel Head of Gaud.  It's creepy and
cool, all in one... kind of Addams Family meets the Medici Family.

Sir Dieterich

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