I totally lucked out here. Having these buttons already in stash was one of the major reasons I decided to go ahead with doing the dress. They are such a distinctive button with a large size, rosette shape, and the pointy bit in the center. I think having them helps to reinforce that this is a version of a particular dress or at least of a particular family. Interestingly, the same buttons can be seen holding the sleeves onto the dress of Maria de Medici, the daughter of Eleonora and Cosimo I in the portrait done of her by Bronzino in 1550.
Whether that is because they were the actual buttons (or sleeve pins) used by Maria, or they were something from the artist's imagination is up for discussion. However, Cosimo I's inventory of 1566-72 has a listing for 193 gold rosettes enameled in grey, white, and black enamel that would have belonged to Eleonora. The number of them makes me think them the sort of thing that would have been used for "buttons." The portrait of Eleonora has 34 visible buttons on the left arm and another 8 on the right. We see all or some of three rows. The four panes of the sleeves mean there's another row of them not shown. All in all that means there's a lot of buttons.
There was a Kickstarter last year (August of 2015) by an SCA merchant who has experience having buttons made to order. it was one of the most painless projects I've ever done (and I'm sort of a Kickstarter junky.) The Kickstarter closed in August I had my buttons by October along with extra buttons, some aiglets and some lacing rings as a bonus. I ended up with 125 buttons which should be enough to do the sleeves. Also luckily, as I am well known for not using things for projects even though they were bought for the project, I can buy more if I ever decide I need more since AvalonNatural on Etsy continues to sell them in both gold and silver.. YAY!
|Il Giornale dell Arte|
That's the good news. The eh news is that I really didn't like how shiny they were and how difficult it is to see the wonderful detailing on them. I just love the look of the quatrafoil heart and wanted to show it off. So I decided that maybe I should patina them in some way. And then I got a really, really good look at the tassel on Eleonora's girdle. A company called Haltadefinizione scanned the painting in 2010 and had a live exhibit. Unfortunately, most of those pictures aren't accessible, but an art newspaper happened to publish this one. In it you can see the beautiful enameling on the head of the tassel. There are also bits of green and white enameling on the pendant of her necklace. I thought continuing the enamel through all the jewelry would be nice.
If I actually did enamel with the melting of glass, I would be foiled by the fact that you can't really enamel on just any metal because of the need to have a lower melting temp for the glass than your metal. My buttons are a mystery alloy and I intend to etch brass for the tassel and possibly cast a pendant. with the mix of metals, I'd already researched options for the appearance of enamel that weren't glass. The best and easiest substitute available to my skill set: nail polish. The polymer enamel is easy to use, easy to obtain, cheap, and low stress. My local drug store had a bunch on sale for 49 cents in all kinds of colors and I have shopping/hoarding issues. I bought lots of colors so I'll be doing faux enamel for some time to come.
I feel like I'm getting off easy here and should be casting them myself. I figure I'll make up for it when I get to the girdle and pendant. Eleonora's jewelry was most likely made by Benvenuto Cellini (at least the buttons and girdle,) as he was the goldsmith that Cosimo I had on staff. Cellini wrote an autobiography as well as some treatise on goldwork and includes anecdotes about the Archduchess in his writings. I'll be talking more about his techniques as I approach the other jewelry. He was an amazingly talented artist as well as an entertaining character, so I'm enjoying reading both. Conveniently, his works are easily available in translation.