HNW - Durer's smocked shirt

Mike Newell 72123.411 at compuserve.com
Wed Oct 22 08:41:41 PDT 1997


Dear Tamar-

It helps if you don't expect SCA-period smocking to look like modern
smocking. I've seen virtually nothing in portraits or paintings that
resembles the heavily worked modern stuff. The most I've found is a bit of
gathering at top and bottom lightly held together with rows of stitches --
that Italian condottiere was really unique. I only wish I had a picture of
him!

The famous self-portrait of Durer, (painted in 1498)  wearing the black and
white striped hat with the tassel and the "come hither" look shows a shirt
front that is very finely pleated to a depth of  maybe 8 or 9", then held
down with what looks like more stitching. This  makes it different from
gathering or simple pleating, which is gathered only at one end. I am
looking at a lovely color plate in the book  "Renaissance Portraits" by
Lorne Campbell. I also have a book called "Portrait Painting" by Malcolm
Warner. This has a color picture of an earlier Durer self-portrait (1493)
which I think of as the Punk Portait. He's sulky and dishevelled, and the
entire shirt front shows under his doublet lacing. The shirt appears to
have a square neck, and what is unusual (to me) is that it is bound with a
copper color ribbon or piece of fabric, instead of white. The shirt is very
finely pleated to that,  and right below where the shirt joins the band
there is a zig-zag pattern of what may be stitches holding the pleats down.
It looks like there is a second band of stitching holding the pleats down
about 3 or 4" below that.

While I was flipping through the Campbell book I found another fascinating
example of what *may* be very ornate and beautifully worked embroidery over
pleats. See page 122-- portrait of Anna Putsch, attributed to Cranach the
Elder, painted c.1503. She's wearing one of those "cut away front" 
Germanic dresses, which shows off the horizontal band going across the top
of the chemise. The band is *very* wide, all in black and gold needlework.
Below it about 1" of white chemise shows. What fascinates me is that the
background of the black and gold band seems to be a honeycomb pattern,
which makes me think this was done over pleating, like the condottiere's
chemise collar.

You might also wish to check out the Holbein portrait of Dorothea
Kannengiesser, 1516, Basle. She is wearing one of those slip-off-the
shoulder Germanic gowns (banded in black around the neckline and cuffs).
Her chemise band is moderate, and embroidered in goldwork in hearts and
fretwork. There are vertical bands of the same work coming off the collar
at  regular intervals. In the space between these intervals (are you still
with me?) there is fine pleating in rows..  On top of the pleating there
seem to be cords tied in *very* simple macrame style, and the ends are left
dangling, free of the chemise. Very odd.

\-----\-----\-----\-----------------   rows of pleating or smocking-
- -\------\----\-----\-----------------
- ---\------\----\-----\---------------imagine another set of slanting lines
going the
- -----\-----\-----\----\---------------- other way, making X's (can't figure
out how to draw it)

I sure wish I were better at computer drawing.

Wel, I didn't mean to blither on so much, but I had fun going through my 
books and avoiding other chores.<g>

- --Kathryn
SCA: Kathryn Goodwyn
"too many centuries...too little time"
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